Business

Trump touts ‘big progress’ after phone call with China’s Xi on trade

Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump had 'good phone call' on Saturday

WASHINGTON: Both the US and China talked of progress on Saturday after telephone talks between their leaders over a trade war that has rattled global markets.

"Just had a long and very good call with President Xi of China," US President Donald Trump said on Twitter after the call with China's President Xi Jinping.

"Deal is moving along very well. If made, it will be very comprehensive, covering all subjects, areas and points of dispute. Big progress being made!"

Washington and Beijing imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on more than US$300 billion (S$410 billion) worth of goods in trade earlier this year, locking them in a conflict that has eaten into profits and contributed to stock market plunges.

The leaders of both the US and China want "stable progress" in ties, Mr Xi said during the call, according to the state Xinhua News Agency.

While investors have worried over the trade war between the world's two biggest economies, relations have thawed since Mr Xi and Mr Trump agreed to a 90-day trade truce in early this month while the two sides work to ease tensions by March 1.

During the call, Mr Xi expressed hope that "both teams can meet each other halfway and reach an agreement beneficial to both countries and the world as early as possible", according to Xinhua.

Relations between the world's top two economies are "now in a vital stage", Xinhua quoted Mr Xi as saying.

The US-China trade war has pressured US and global markets in December, alongside worries over slowing growth, a partial US government shutdown, higher US Federal Reserve interest rates and Mr Trump's attacks on the central bank.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last Sunday aimed to allay investor anxiety by announcing that he had held a conference call with major bank CEOs, but the comments were widely criticised by market watchers for raising new doubts.

Prior to Saturday's call, there had been small signs of progress - and the absence of new threats from Mr Trump.

China's customs administration announced on Friday it had approved US rice imports, after Beijing's major state-owned grain stockpiler said it had resumed buying US soybeans, and China announced it would suspend extra tariffs added to US-made cars and auto parts starting Jan 1.

China is also targeting intellectual property theft in the country - one of the main sticking points in the dispute.

Mr Trump initiated the trade war because of complaints over unfair Chinese trade practices - concerns shared by the European Union, Japan and others.

He is seeking a massive reduction in the US trade deficit with China and reforms to open the economy to foreign companies.

Trade negotiators from China and the US are planning to meet next month for talks, Beijing said on Thursday, but stopped short of confirming the exact date or location. - AFP

WORLD