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OSAKA, Japan — President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a new cease-fire Saturday in a yearlong trade war during their meeting on the sidelines of a conference in Japan, averting, at least for now, an escalation feared by financial markets and the business community while negotiations continue.
Trump said U.S. tariffs in place against Chinese imports will remain, but that new tariffs he’s threatened to slap on billions worth of other Chinese goods will not be triggered for the “time being.” He announced that U.S. and China would restart stalled trade talks, saying, “we’re going to work with China where we left off.”
Trump spoke after a lengthy meeting with Xi on the margins of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan. The leaders had sought to find an off-ramp to a burgeoning trade war between economic powerhouses despite doubts about their willingness to compromise on a long-term solution.
Trump had said earlier that relations with China were “right back on track.”
The apparent truce continues a pattern for talks between Trump and Xi, who have professed their friendship and hit pause on protectionist measures after their conversations, only to see negotiations later break down over the contentious details.
The meeting that ultimately led to the cease-fire marked the centerpiece of four days of diplomacy for Trump, whose re-election chances have been put at risk by the trade war that has hurt American farmers and battered global markets. Tensions rose in recent weeks after negotiations collapsed last month.
Trump had said after a meeting with Turkey’s president that talks with Xi went “probably even better than expected.”
Seated across a lengthy table flanked by top aides, both leaders struck a cautiously optimistic tone after they posed for photographs.
“We’ve had an excellent relationship,” Trump told Xi as the meeting opened, “but we want to do something that will even it up with respect to trade.”
Xi, for his part, recounted the era of “ping-pong diplomacy” that helped jump-start U.S.-China relations two generations ago. Since then, he said, “one basic fact remains unchanged: China and the United States both benefit from cooperation and lose in confrontation.”
“Cooperation and dialogue are better than friction and confrontation,” he added.
The meeting with Xi is one of three Trump had lined up Saturday with world leaders displaying authoritarian tendencies.
Trump had his first face-to-face sit-down with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman since the U.S. intelligence community concluded that the crown prince directed the grisly murder of Washington Post columnist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi last year. Trump also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an ostensible NATO ally whom the U.S. sees as drifting dangerously toward Russia’s sphere of influence.
Trump called bin Salman his “friend” and ignored reporters’ questions about his alleged role in Khashoggi’s death. He has long sought to minimize the crown prince’s role in the murder and has been reluctant to criticize the killing of the royal critic at a Saudi consulate in Turkey last year. Trump views the kingdom as the lynchpin of its Middle East strategy to counter Iran.
In a wide-ranging news conference after the summit, Trump called the killing “horrible,” but said Saudi Arabia has “been a terrific ally.” He suggested he’s satisfied with steps the country is taking to prosecute some of those involved, while claiming that “nobody so far has pointed directly a finger” at Saudi Arabia’s future king. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that bin Salman must have at least known of the plot.
The summit came a week after Trump pulled back from ordering a military strike on Iran after it downed an American unmanned spy plane, and as it stands on the threshold of breaching uranium enrichment thresholds set in a 2015 nuclear deal. Trump said he wouldn’t preview his response should Iran top the limit, adding, “We cannot let Iran have a nuclear weapon.”
With Erdogan, Trump said the leaders will “look at different solutions” to Turkey’s planned purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system. U.S. officials have threatened that purchase would halt the sale of the U.S.-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, though Erdogan has called it a done deal.
“Turkey has been a friend of ours,” Trump said. He blamed the Obama administration for not agreeing to sell U.S.-made Patriot missile batteries to Turkey, calling the situation a “mess” and “not really Erdogan’s fault.”
Saturday’s meetings came the day after Trump, with a smirk and a finger point, dryly told another authoritarian leader, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, “Don’t meddle with the election” in their first meeting since the special counsel concluded that Russia extensively interfered with the 2016 campaign.
Trump said he privately raised the issue with Putin, adding, “You know he denies it, totally. How many times can you get someone to deny something?”
The president had threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports — on top of the $250 billion in goods he’s already taxed — extending his import taxes to virtually everything China ships to the United States. He has said the new tariffs, which are paid by U.S. importers and usually passed onto consumers, might start at 10%. Earlier, the administration had said additional tariffs might reach 25%.
The two countries are sparring over the Trump administration’s allegations that Beijing steals technology and coerces foreign companies into handing over trade secrets. China denies it engages in such practices. The U.S. has also tried to rally other nations to block Chinese telecom firm Huawei from their upcoming 5G systems, branding the company a national security threat and barring it from buying American technology.
Beijing has retaliated by levying its own tariffs on goods from the United States. On Friday, it criticized what it calls “negative content” about China in legislation before the U.S. Congress, saying it would further damage relations already roiled by disputes over trade and technology.
Associated Press writers Patrick Quinn in Bangkok and Paul Wiseman, Darlene Superville and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.
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