US President Donald Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday he hoped they would achieve “something great” on trade for both countries as they opened a high-stakes summit aimed at defusing a damaging tariffs war between Washington and Beijing.
With the United States and China locked in an economic dispute that has roiled global financial markets and weighed on the world economy, Trump and Xi sat down for talks and dinner at the end of a two-day gathering of world leaders in Buenos Aires.
Trump struck a positive note as he sat across from Xi, despite the US president’s earlier threats to impose new tariffs on Chinese imports.
“We’ll be discussing trade and I think at some point we are going to end up doing something great for China and great for the United States,” Trump said when a small pool of reporters was briefly allowed into the room.
He suggested that the “incredible relationship” he and Xi had established would be “the very primary reason” they could make progress on trade, though he offered no specifics on how they might resolve the main issue dividing the world’s two biggest economies.
At the same time, Trump again raised with Xi his concern about the synthetic opioid fentanyl being sent from China to the United States, urging the Chinese leader to place it in a “restricted category” of drugs that would essentially criminalize it.
Earlier on Saturday, the leaders of the world’s largest economies backed an overhaul of the global body that regulates international trade disputes.
The Group of 20 industrialized nations called for reforms to the crisis-stricken World Trade Organization in a final statement from their two-day gathering in Argentina, marking a victory for Trump’s drive to overhaul the trade body.
Officials expressed relief that agreement on a final statement was reached after negotiators worked through the night to overcome differences over language on climate change.
The final text recognized trade as an important engine of global growth but made only a passing reference to “the current trade issues,” after the US delegation won a battle to keep any mention of protectionism out of the statement.
In addition to tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminums imports into the United States this year. Numerous countries have filed litigation at the WTO to contest the levies.
Trump, meeting China’s Xi, voices hope for progress on trade dispute