Trump-Xi dinner seeks trade war truce

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US President Donald Trump (2nd from right) US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin (right) and members of their delegation hold a dinner meeting with China's President Xi Jinping (third from left) and Chinese government representatives, at the end of the G20 Leaders' Summit in Buenos Aires, on 1 December 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held a high-stakes dinner Saturday to try to pull the world’s top two economies from the brink of a full-fledged trade war.

There was no immediate statement from either side when the dinner of more than two hours ended in Buenos Aires. Trump left immediately to board Air Force One for Washington, having spent two days attending the summit of G20 countries.

But both leaders had expressed optimism earlier as they and top aides sat down at a long hotel table in the Argentinian capital.

“We will probably end up ending up getting something that will be good for China and the United States,” Trump said, while Xi said they shared tremendous responsibility to find a solution.

“Only with cooperation between us can we serve the interest of both peace and prosperity,” Xi said.

The meeting lasted longer than scheduled and featured a menu of sirloin steak, caramel rolled pancakes and Argentinian wine.

It may have been tacked on to the end of two days of G20 diplomacy, but it was in many ways the main event of the weekend. Trump has already imposed tariffs on more than $250 billion in Chinese goods — about half of the total imported into the United States each year — in an attempt to pressure Beijing to change its trade rules.

Duties of 10 percent currently on most of those goods are set to rise on January 1 to a whopping 25 percent if a deal isn’t reached.

And that’s not all.

As Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow said in Washington ahead of the dinner: “If things don’t work out in this US-China summit meeting, he will invoke some 267 billion dollars in additional tariffs.”

With US-Chinese disagreements on Trump’s demands for better market access and intellectual property protections so profound, any real breakthrough was considered unlikely.

But financial markets, spooked by the potential impact on the world economy, hoped that at least some kind of truce could be declared.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also attending the G20, spoke for many when she urged progress.

“We all realize that we are indirectly influenced by the fact that Sino-American economic relations are not running as smoothly as a world order needs,” she said.

p: wjg

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