Trump phone call with Xi leads to 'major progress'

Presidents are working toward a deal between the world's two largest economies

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 9, 2017, China's President Xi Jinping (L) and US President Donald Trump attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.  US President Donald Trump on December 29, 2018 touted "big progress" after a phone call with his Chinese counterpart on trade, after the tariff war between the world's two biggest economies helped rattle markets. / AFP / FRED DUFOUR

President Donald Trump said on Saturday he’d spoken at length with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that “big progress” is being made toward a deal between the world’s largest economies.

The agreement will be “very comprehensive” and will cover “all subjects, areas and points of dispute”, the president, who’s spending the weekend in Washington, said in a tweet.

Mr Trump’s comment comes as a US trade delegation prepares to travel to Beijing in early January for talks with Chinese officials. It’s another sign that tensions may be cooling after months of brinkmanship, and that the leaders are following through on commitments made at their dinner meeting in Buenos Aires on December 1.

Mr Xi said both he and Mr Trump hope to push for “stable progress” in US-China relations, and that bilateral ties are now at a vital stage, according to a Xinhua News Agency report on the leaders’ phone call.

Mr Xi added that he and Mr Trump discussed various international and regional issues, that China supports further talks between the US and North Korea, and hopes for positive results, Xinhua reported.

It was unclear who initiated Saturday’s call. The White House, which typically doesn’t release details of Mr Trump’s calls with foreign leaders beyond what the president reveals himself, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg News reported on Thursday that a US government delegation will travel to Beijing in the week of January 7 for talks, according to two people familiar with the plans.


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Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish will lead the team, which also will include Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs David Malpass, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, whom Trump named to be in charge of the China talks, isn’t scheduled to join the delegation.

US stocks, beaten down recently by concerns about an escalating tariff war, got a boost from news of the upcoming talks.

The gathering will be the first face-to-face discussion between the two sides since Mr Trump and Mr Xi agreed to a 90-day truce during the Buenos Aires dinner. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said December 18 that the US and China have held discussions over the phone since then.

Mr Xi said Saturday that officials from both countries have been working actively and hopes the teams can meet each other halfway, Xinhua reported.

Negotiators on both sides have begun fleshing out a possible deal that includes ensuring greater access for foreign firms to China’s financial sector, but Trump may be overstating how close the countries are to agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported late Saturday, citing people familiar with “the state of negotiations.”

Beijing this week announced a third round of tariff cuts, saying it would lower import taxes on more than 700 goods from Jan. 1 as part of its efforts to open up the economy and lower costs for domestic consumers.

Trump, meanwhile, has agreed to put on hold a scheduled increase in tariffs on some $200 billion in annual imports from China while the negotiations take place. He’s pushing the Asian nation to reduce trade barriers and stop the alleged theft of intellectual property. Beijing so far has pledged to resume buying US soybeans and to at least temporarily lower retaliatory tariffs on US autos.