Millennium Post

China-US showdown looms on trade at fractious G20

Buenos Aires: The United States and China, the world's two largest economies, will see Saturday if they can find a breakthrough to exit a spiraling trade war as their presidents meet at a tense G20 summit.

With markets watching nervously, US President Donald Trump has described the Buenos Aires summit of the 20 leading economic powers as a deadline for China to meet his demands or risk even further pressure.

The summit itself, with leaders from France, Russia and Saudi Arabia among those attending, has been struggling to carve out any accord on fighting climate change while hot-button disputes such as Ukraine loom large.

Trump, who has already slapped 250 billion in tariffs on China, sounded upbeat about making progress with his counterpart Xi Jinping after weeks of dire warnings.

"We're working very hard. If we could make a deal, that would be good," Trump told reporters Friday as he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the first of the summit's two days. "I think they want to, and I think we'd like to. And we'll see," Trump said.

Trump has thrown out the traditional US playbook on free trade since his shock 2016 election, vowing to protect forgotten workers and put "America First." Xi has in turn cast himself as a defender of stable global capitalism, a startling transformation for the leader of a communist state whose entry into the World Trade Organization less than two decades ago was controversial.

In a speech to fellow G20 leaders, Xi said that the major economies "should firmly uphold free trade and the rules-based multilateral trading system." But in a rhetorical olive branch to Trump, Xi pledged to do more to open up China's economy. "China will continue to deepen market-oriented reform, protect property rights and intellectual property rights, encourage fair competition and do more to expand imports," he said.

Trump has accused China of rampant theft of US technology and demanded that the emerging power end its requirements that foreign companies team up with local partners.

In the run-up to November 6 congressional elections, Trump ramped up criticism and accused China of interfering domestically to hurt his Republican Party.

But tensions have eased since then, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assuring that the United States is not seeking a new Cold War and US and Chinese trade officials swapping a lengthy list of items up for discussion.

Trump's criticisms of China's trade policy enjoy wide support across the US political spectrum, but some fear that the president has bitten off more than he can chew with a go-it-alone campaign that could damage markets worldwide. Trump counted a victory Friday for his brash trade stance as the United States, Canada and Mexico signed a new trade deal, a successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

While short of a complete rewrite of NAFTA once promised by Trump, he hailed the new United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement as an "incredible milestone."

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