Trump hails 'chemistry' with China's Xi
US President Donald Trump lavished praise on Chinese leader Xi Jinping yesterday, touting "great chemistry" between them while refusing to criticise his counterpart for the trade imbalance that Mr Trump railed against during his campaign.
Speaking at a joint appearance with Mr Xi in front of business leaders, Mr Trump said the US trade relationship with China was "a very one-sided and unfair one". But, he quickly added: "I don't blame China. Who can blame a country that is able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit."
During the presidential campaign, Mr Trump accused China of "raping" the US economy and threatened to label the country a "currency manipulator" - even though economic analysts have said Beijing has not artificially inflated its renminbi currency for years. In his remarks yesterday, Mr Trump reiterated that the United States must "change its policies" but he offered no details about actions his administration will pursue.
"We've gotten so far behind on trade with China and frankly many other countries," Mr Trump said ahead of a bilateral meeting with Mr Xi, before adding he had "great respect" for Mr Xi for "representing China".
Mr Trump blamed past US administrations "for having allowed it to get so far out of kilter. We'll make it fair, and it'll be tremendous for both of us. My feeling toward you is incredibly warm. We have great chemistry. I think we'll do tremendous things, China and the US."
Their high-stakes, two-day summit is being closely watched for signs of how the leaders of the world's two biggest economies will be able to co-operate on issues from North Korea to trade to cyber security amid mounting challenges in the Asia-Pacific. Mr Trump is hoping to win concessions from Mr Xi, but the Chinese leader is in a strong position after having consolidated power at a Communist Party congress last month.
The two countries announced memorandums of understanding to increase trade by $253bn (€217bn), which they said was a sign of greater co-operation.
In contrast to Mr Trump's effusive praise, Mr Xi appeared reserved and spoke in carefully scripted language about "win-win" co-operation and a "new starting point" for the bilateral relationship - language Beijing has employed in a bid to get the United States to agree to allow China to operate in its "sphere of influence" in Asia without meddling.
Mr Xi did not talk in personal terms about Mr Trump.
The United States and China had clashed on issues from cyber security to trade in the final years of the Obama administration, though they had struck a landmark climate deal during Barack Obama's 2014 visit to Beijing that served as a prelude to the Paris climate accord.
Mr Trump has announced intentions to withdraw the United States from that agreement, but Mr Xi has pledged to make China a leader on reducing carbon emissions.
Mr Xi vowed to work together in the "spirit of mutual respect and mutual benefit."
During a joint statement with Mr Xi in front of reporters, Mr Trump reiterated his harsh criticism of North Korea and said he and Mr Xi discussed their shared goal of pursuing the "complete denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula. "We call on all responsible nations to join together to stop arming and financing and even trading with the murderous North Korean regime," Mr Trump said.
But the two leaders did not take questions from reporters, a win for Mr Xi, who oversees an authoritarian system that has sought to sharply limit free speech and press freedoms.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, briefing reporters after the meetings, said the US delegation was "quite pleased" because there was "no disagreement" on North Korea. Mr Trump pressed Mr Xi to fully implement the economic sanctions on Pyongyang authorised by the UN Security Council, Mr Tillerson said, and Mr Xi outlined additional steps his government is taking to crack down on banks doing business with the North.
"There was no space between both of our objectives," Mr Tillerson said.
But he cautioned that Mr Xi also emphasised that "it will take time" for the new sanctions to create stress on the North. Chinese state media appeared pleased with the summit. The 'Global Times', known for its nationalist rhetoric, declared that Mr Trump "respects our head of state and has repeatedly praised President Xi in public". (© Washington Post)