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Trade War

Trump-Xi meeting at G-20 'under discussion'

Market turmoil gives new incentive to break trade war impasse

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany in July 2017.    © AP

NEW YORK -- A meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 meeting in Argentina is "under discussion," top economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters at the White House on Thursday.

A summit on the sidelines of the G-20, to be held at the end of next month, would offer a chance to quell the escalating trade war between the world's two largest economies. The stock market rout on Wednesday has alarmed the White House ahead of next month's congressional elections and could give new urgency to find a solution to the trade tensions.

Kudlow's comments followed a report in the Wall Street Journal earlier on Thursday, saying that the Trump administration informed Beijing of its plans to go ahead with the meeting in recent days and has organized a planning team.

If it happens, a November summit would mark the first face-to-face meeting between Trump and Xi in a year. Trump has frequently spoken highly of his Chinese counterpart, but revised his assessment at a recent news conference, in which he suggested that Xi "may not be a friend of mine anymore."

Since the U.S. enacted its first round of tariffs on Chinese goods in July, tensions between Washington and Beijing have progressively worsened on multiple fronts. The U.S. has accused China of election meddling and railed against what it considers China's "unfair" trade and business practices such as intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers.

A meeting between the countries' highest office holders could offer an opportunity to shake up the stalled trade negotiations. China canceled a round of midlevel talks last month after Washington announced an additional $200 billion worth of tariffs to top off the $50 billion already levied against Chinese imports.

The trade war has taken a toll on both countries. U.S. markets took a tumble on Wednesday, and a report released Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund noted lost GDP growth in both the U.S. and China. The IMF revised its overall global growth forecasts to reflect a 0.2-percentage-point drop next year.

"The disruption caused by an escalation of trade restrictions could be particularly large in the U.S. and China, with GDP losses of more than 0.9% in the U.S. and over 1.6% in China in 2019," the report said.

Trump has suggested that the slowdown of China's economy is evidence that his trade strategy is effective and has said that he does not believe China is ready to make a deal that would be acceptable to the U.S.

But some members of the U.S. business community are eager to see progress.

"As the two largest economies and the most important bilateral relationship in the world, the United States and China have benefited enormously from trade and investment ties," Evan Greenberg, CEO of the insurer Chubb and board chair of the U.S.-China Business Council (USCBC), said in a news release Thursday.

"Unfortunately, current tensions are impacting the commercial environment for companies in both countries," Greenberg said.

"While USCBC directors agree that the systemic challenges in China raised by the Trump administration must be addressed urgently in order to resolve long-standing concerns and improve the business environment, USCBC opposes the unilateral imposition of tariffs," Craig Allen, president of the council, said in a separate news release. "We urge both governments to re-engage in a results-oriented dialogue that paves the way for commercially meaningful outcomes."

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