Trump talks up US-China trade deal prospects
Global markets steadied last night after US president Donald Trump predicted a trade deal will be struck with China amid positive gestures by Beijing, in sharp contrast to angry comments and tariffs announced last week.
World markets had been roiled by new tit-for-tat tariffs from the world's two largest economies, but at the G7 summit of world leaders in Biarritz, France, Mr Trump said he believed China was sincere about wanting to reach a deal, citing what he described as increasing economic pressure on Beijing and job losses there.
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Chinese vice-premier Liu He, who has been leading the talks with Washington, said yesterday that the country was willing to resolve the trade dispute through "calm" negotiations and opposed any increase in trade tensions.
Mr Trump cited Mr Liu's comments as a positive sign, underscoring his seniority, and repeated his assertion that Chinese officials had contacted US trade counterparts overnight, offering to resume negotiations, a claim China declined to confirm.
"I think they want to make a deal very badly. I think that was elevated last night. The vice-chairman of China came out, he said he wants to see a deal made," Mr Trump said.
"The longer they wait, the harder it is to put back, if it can be put back at all," he added at a news conference with French president Emmanuel Macron. "I don't think they have a choice."
Mr Macron said an agreement would help dispel uncertainty that has been weighing on markets. He said Mr Trump had told G7 leaders he wanted to strike a deal with China.
Mr Trump said he was more upbeat about the prospects for an agreement than in the recent past.
Days after referring to president Xi Jinping as an enemy, Mr Trump heaped praise on his Chinese counterpart in separate remarks yesterday, calling him a "great leader" and a "brilliant man".
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he had not heard that a phone call between the two sides had taken place. However, China's commerce ministry typically releases statements on trade calls. It did not respond to a request for comment.
When pressed on whether a call had taken place, Mr Trump emphasised Mr Liu's comments. US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said there had been contact between the two sides but declined to say with whom.
Hu Xijin, editor of the state-controlled 'Global Times' newspaper, tweeted: "Based on what I know, Chinese and US top negotiators didn't hold phone talks in recent days.
"The two sides have been keeping contact at technical level; it doesn't have significance (what) president Trump suggested. China didn't change its position. China won't cave to US pressure."
The increasingly bitter trade war between the economies worsened on Friday, with both sides levelling more tariffs on each other's exports.
Mr Trump announced an additional duty on some $550bn (€495bn) of targeted Chinese goods, hours after China unveiled retaliatory tariffs on $75bn of US goods.
On Sunday, the White House said Mr Trump regretted not raising the tariffs even more.
But he also appeared to back off from his threat to order US companies out of China.
Vice-premier Liu, Mr Xi's top economic adviser, said at a conference in south- western Chongqing: "We believe the escalation of the trade war is not beneficial for China, the United States, nor to the interests of the people of the world."
The trade war has damaged global growth and raised market fears of a recession. It has affected businesses across the world and disrupted supply chains. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said China would retaliate if the US enforced the latest tariffs.
Wall Street rebounded yesterday after all the comments, with all 11 sectors in the benchmark S&P 500 index moving higher, following the index's worst run of weekly losses on Friday.