US President Donald Trump said he expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at this month’s G20 summit in Osaka, even though relations between the powers were “a bit testy”.
Speaking at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, Mr Trump accused China of reneging on a trade deal that he said the two nations had agreed last month but added that he still hoped to sign an agreement with China.
“We’re going to be meeting, President Xi and myself. And you know we have a very good relationship,” Mr Trump said at a briefing with Polish president Andrzej Duda. “We will end up making a deal with China. We have a very good relationship, although it’s a little bit testy right now . . . I think they really have to make a deal.”
Mr Trump repeated his threat to put tariffs on the $325bn in imports from China not yet subject to US levies if the Chinese government did not agree to a deal that would end the trade war between the two countries. But Mr Trump refused to say when he would decide on imposing tariffs if China did not strike a deal.
“I have no deadline. My deadline is what’s up here,” Mr Trump said, pointing to his head.
His comments were the strongest signal that the two leaders would have a bilateral meeting at the G20. But the White House refused to clarify whether a meeting had been agreed, or whether Mr Trump was actually referring to the pair meeting as part of the larger group of leaders. The Chinese embassy also declined to comment.
After talks between the US and China broke down last month, both sides vowed to continue negotiations, raising hopes that they might mend relations ahead of the G20.
But when the US placed Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications firm, on an export blacklist days later, it scuppered any chances of a quick revival. Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary, met with Yi Gang, the governor of China’s central bank, at a gathering of G20 finance minister and central bankers at the weekend, but no major breakthrough emerged from that gathering.
Mr Trump’s comments on Wednesday came as he faced a barrage of criticism from senior US business leaders over tariff threats he has directed at China and Mexico in the past six weeks.
Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase and chairman of the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group for corporate America, warned of the damage that could come if Mr Trump followed through on his vow to slap 25 per cent levies on a further $300bn of Chinese products later this month.
“It will eventually hurt business confidence and it adds to the risk of pushing us into a downturn,” he said. “Guessing the economy is a very hard thing to do and you’ve got to look at the probabilities and possibilities. It’s just raising the risk of a bad outcome.”
Tom Linebarger, chief executive of Cummins, a US manufacturer, was even more pointed in his criticism of Mr Trump at the same event organised by the BRT. He said the breakdown in talks between Washington and Beijing was of concern and even existing US levies on Chinese products were a “significant burden” on many companies.
The BRT said its overall economic outlook index decreased by 5.7 points in the second quarter to 89.5, with each of the survey components suggesting more pessimism in corporate America. Hiring plans decreased by 5.2 points to 75.2, according to the survey’s gauge, while plans for capital investment fell by 2.9 points to 88.1. At the same time, expectations for sales fell 8.9 points to 105.1.
However, these levels were still consistent with an expansion of the economy. Mr Linebarger said that beyond the impact of the levies, he worried about the possibility of a decoupling of the US and Chinese economies.
“I think the narrative that you’re increasingly hearing that somehow we can operate in separate worlds, that there will be a Chinese world and a US world, would be incredibly damaging to national security, as well as the tech economy,” he said. “It would make a US company, headquartered in the US, again, less competitive.”