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Trump and Xi agree to restart trade talks, put hold on new tariffs

President Donald J. Trump, seated next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, listens as China’s President Xi Jinping, right, delivers remarks at the G20 Leaders Special Event on the Digital Economy at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Saturday to restart trade talks and hold off on imposing new tariffs, marking a deescalation of tensions between the world’s two largest economies, according to China’s official news agency.

Trump said as much shortly after his highly anticipated meeting with Xi on the final day of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan. He said his discussion with Xi was “excellent,” better than expected. And he noted that “negotiations are continuing.”

Things are “right back on track,” Trump said, adding that he would provide more information at a G-20 closing press conference later Saturday.

There was no immediate word on what Trump agreed to do in response to China’s demand that the United States remove restrictions on Huawei Technologies. The U.S. Commerce Department last month placed the Chinese telecom giant on a national security blacklist, making it difficult for American firms to supply chips and other components to Huawei.

Huawei is one of China’s most successful global companies, and its status has become a linchpin in a widening dispute between the two countries over trade, technology and security matters.

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The meeting, on the sidelines of the G-20 summit of major economies, held high drama as many world leaders gathered here openly fretted about rising trade friction and the potentially devastating effects it could have on a fragile global economy.

At the start of their meeting, inside a room in Osaka’s exhibition and convention center, the two leaders sat at a long table, with Trump and Xi facing each other, aides at their side to the right and left.

Xi began by referring to the so-called ping-pong diplomacy that began in 1971 that eventually led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China in 1979.

“China and the United States both benefit from cooperation, and lose from confrontation,” Xi said.

Trump, in his opening remarks, fondly recalled his November 2017 state visit to Beijing, calling it “one of the most incredible of my life.”

“We have had a lot of time together. We’ve become friends,” Trump told Xi.

Turning to the issue at hand, Trump said that “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 a little bit,” he said, referring to the breakdown in talks in early May that prompted an escalation of tariffs, with the threat of more to come.

“We’re totally open to it,” regarding a “fair trade deal,” Trump said, adding: “I think this is going to be a very productive meeting.”

Neither Trump nor Xi answered reporters’ questions before journalists were led away from the room.

Financial markets and others are hoping for a repeat of the Trump-Xi meeting seven months ago at the last G-20 leaders’ summit, in Buenos Aires.

Then, the two leaders met over dinner, and afterward the two sides announced that the United States would back away from a Jan. 1 deadline set by Trump to ratchet up tariffs on imports from China.

Trump extended the deadline again in February, but the cease-fire ended after talks broke down in May.

Trump’s chief trade official, Robert Lighthizer, has insisted that China must make concessions on major structural issues, including intellectual property protection and technology transfer policies — and that Beijing’s commitments must be enforceable.

Many analysts believe the gap between the two countries reflects fundamental differences in their political economies, differences that will be difficult to bridge.

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© 2019 the Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.