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Trade war

Trump says China has no choice but to make trade deal

President cites comments from Beijing's lead negotiator as sign of progress

President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference on the third and final day of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, on Aug. 26.   © AP

BIARRITZ, France/BEIJING -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that China had lost "much more than 3 million jobs" in recent months and that President Xi Jinping has no choice but to agree to a trade deal with the U.S.

But he seemed to walk back on earlier comments made Monday that China had called to propose a resumption of the trade talks. At a wide ranging press conference at the close of the Group of Seven summit in France, Trump said he had seen a late night news alert regarding Chinese Vice Premier Liu He's comments that Beijing seeks to resolve issues with a "calm" attitude.

Liu, China's point man on trade negotiations, had said those words at the 2019 Smart China Expo in Chongqing. China "resolutely opposes" further escalation, which is "not good for China, it’s not good for the US, and it’s also not good for the interests of people across the world," Liu said. 

Trump commended Liu's stance saying "He wants to see a deal made, he wants it to be made under calm conditions. He used the word 'calm,' I agree with him."

Earlier in the day, Trump had said "China called, last night, our top trade people," and that they had proposed to resume talks. "So we'll be getting back to the table," Trump told reporters on the final day of the G-7. The comments reversed a potential sell-off on Wall Street Monday morning, sending the Dow Industrial Average up over 250 points.

Asked about the communication cited by Trump, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at Monday's press conference that he was "not aware" of any phone discussion over the weekend.

Hu Xijin, the influential editor-in-chief of China's hawkish Global Times newspaper, also tweeted that top trade negotiators of the two sides had not held phone conversations in recent days and that any communication was at the technical level. "It doesn't have significance that President Trump suggested," Hu wrote. "China didn't change its position. China won't cave to US pressure."

Meanwhile, at the G-7 closing press conference, Trump said that China's supply chain is "breaking like nobody has seen before," and that the longer China waits, the harder it will become to put it back into place.

While calling Xi a "great leader" and a "brilliant man," Trump said "I don't think they have a choice," but to make a deal under the tough economic circumstances China is in.

The two sides had been scheduled to hold a cabinet-level meeting next month, but there was concern that Friday's heightening of tensions could have derailed negotiations. China announced a new round of tit-for-tat tariffs, to which Trump responded by announcing another increase in U.S. duties on Chinese goods.

Trump had suggested Sunday he was having "second thoughts" about the escalation, but White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said a few hours later that the president meant that he "regrets not raising the tariffs higher."
 

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