Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump on Tuesday seized on seemingly conciliatory remarks from Chinese leader Xi Jinping, praising Beijing’s “kind words” as a breakthrough in the looming trade war between the two countries.
“Very thankful for President Xi of China’s kind words on tarrifs [sic] and automobile barriers…also, his enlightenment on intellectual property and technology transfers,” he tweeted.
“We will make great progress together!” Trump predicted, hailing the speech in which Xi renewed a commitment to lower car import tariffs.
Trump’s upbeat assessment of Xi’s remarks at an economic forum on the southern island of Hainan echoed the view of Wall Street, which was firmly in positive territory Tuesday after a jittery few days.
Xi’s insistence that China “does not seek a trade surplus” followed a spate of tit-for-tat tariffs and mutual threats of more levies on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of products.
Veteran China watchers were less convinced, pointing out that the Chinese leader had already promised reforms of the auto sector.
Evan Medeiros, former US National Security Council director for Asia, noted it was “not a new commitment and will not dramatically change the fortunes of US car companies.”
He added that “Xi’s bland and generic commitments on IP protection fell short of what would have been a true gamechanger.”
But with Trump and his supporters happy to claim a victory for his browbeating strategy, the flurry of pronouncements from Trump and Xi could open the door to talks.
Earlier this week Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic advisor, said limited interactions had already taken place but not serious discussions to avoid tariffs.