Trump says he and China’s Xi had ‘long and very good’ trade conversation

China's President Xi Jinping (L) and US President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping amid concerns about escalating trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

In a tweet, the president said he had a “long and very good conversation” with the Chinese leader, “with a heavy emphasis on trade.” He added that “those discussions are moving along nicely” ahead of planned face-to-face meetings at the G-20 summit in Argentina later this month.

It is unclear how much progress Trump and Xi made toward breaking an impasse over how they will assuage Trump’s grievances with Beijing and move toward reducing tariffs. Talks between the two countries have recently stalled as the White House pushes for an end to alleged intellectual property theft by Chinese companies and a reduction in the U.S. trade deficit with China. Beijing has so far appeared unwilling to make major concessions.

Xi spoke with Trump at the U.S. president’s request, Chinese state media said in a readout of the call, according to NBC News. Xi said the U.S. and China should push for “mutually acceptable solutions” on economic and trade issues and added that he looks forward to meeting with Trump in Argentina.

Despite the lack of detail on any concrete progress, stock markets jumped in response to Trump’s tweet. Investors have worried about the president’s threats to levy tariffs on an additional US$267 billion in Chinese goods and the damage the move could do to American consumers and companies. The duties would come on top of tariffs already imposed on US$250 billion in Chinese imports.

The tweet comes just five days before Tuesday’s midterm elections. Numerous candidates across the nation — particularly those in areas that export agricultural products to China — have pushed for Trump to ease the trade tensions.

On Wednesday, Trump’s top economic advisor Larry Kudlow tempered expectations about progress at the G-20 summit. He told CNBC that “it’s possible some good positive things could — I say could — come out of President Trump-President Xi talks.”

“Nothing is set in stone right now” on the potential new tariffs, the National Economic Council director said.

The president has long pushed to crack down on what he calls Chinese trade abuses. He has used tariffs to try to bring Beijing to the negotiating table, describing any economic pain as a temporary necessity to secure a better deal.

The two sides last held talks in late August. Reports last month indicated that a U.S. desire for a plan to address alleged intellectual property theft emerged as a sticking point.

Credit: CNBC