Donald Trump has declared US trade negotiations with China to be “right back on track” after a highly anticipated meeting with Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka.
Trump said the US would not impose further tariffs in a trade war that other world leaders have warned could threaten the global economy, and added that the world’s two biggest economies would restart negotiations on a trade deal.
The US president told a press conference that he and his Chinese counterpart had had a “great meeting”.
“We will continue to negotiate, and I promise that at least for the time being we won’t be adding additional [tariffs] … We’re going to work with China to see if we can make a deal. China will consult with us and will be buying a tremendous amount of food and agricultural products, and they’re going to start doing that almost immediately.”
He had said at the start of the meeting that he was open to a “historic fair trade deal” with China. “We are totally open to it,” he told Xi, who called for “cooperation and dialogue” instead of confrontation.
Trump added: “We want to do some things that will even it up with respect to trade. We were very close but something happened where it slipped up a little bit,” he added, in a reference to the failure of previous talks.
In a G20 declaration issued at the end of the two-day summit, the leaders avoided criticism of Trump-style protectionism but committed themselves to realising “free, fair and non-discriminatory” trade and to “keep our markets open”.
Fears of a protracted trade war that could put other countries, including Japan, in Washington’s crosshairs have overshadowed the summit.
Trump had threatened to extend existing tariffs to cover almost all imports from China to the US unless Beijing made progress in meeting US demands for economic reforms.
Their trade dispute escalated when talks collapsed in May after Washington accused Beijing of reneging on reform pledges. Trump raised tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200bn of Chinese goods, and China retaliated with levies on US imports.
The Trump-Xi meeting came hours after the European Union and the South American trade bloc, Mercosur, sealed a free trade deal after two decades of negotiations.
The European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “In the midst of international trade tensions, we are sending today a strong signal with our Mercosur partners that we stand for rules-based trade.”
Fears that disagreement over the climate crisis could sink the G20 declaration were overcome with a compromise that again left the US isolated in international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
All G20 nations except the US reiterated their determination to implement the Paris agreement, noting in a separate clause that Washington intended to withdraw from the agreement “because it disadvantages American workers and taxpayers”.
The lack of progress on the climate emergency, despite it being flagged as a priority by the summit’s Japanese hosts, drew an angry reaction from campaigners.
Kimiko Hirata, international director of the Kiko Network, said Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, had “raised expectations that he would use this G20 moment to take bold action for the planet. Instead, Japan hid behind the Trump administration and didn’t try to build a clear majority of support for climate action and lower ambitions.
“Prime Minister Abe and other G20 leaders need to get serious about their climate commitments and make sure they don’t show up empty-handed for the climate action summit in September.”
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