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Trump claims ‘BIG leap forward’ in China trade talks, but details unclear

Hogogo/iStock
Hogogo/iStock

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Monday tweeted optimistically that relations between the United States and China “have taken a BIG leap forward!” and predicted that “very good things will happen” after he reached a temporary truce with China’s President Xi Jinping in the ongoing trade war over the course of a three-hour-long dinner on the sidelines of the G-20 summit this weekend.

My meeting in Argentina with President Xi of China was an extraordinary one. Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward! Very good things will happen. We are dealing from great strength, but China likewise has much to gain if and when a deal is completed. Level the field!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2018

President Xi and I have a very strong and personal relationship. He and I are the only two people that can bring about massive and very positive change, on trade and far beyond, between our two great Nations. A solution for North Korea is a great thing for China and ALL!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2018

The president tweeted directly to U.S. farmers, some of whom have suffered as a result of Chinese counter-tariffs, to say “Farmers, I LOVE YOU!”

Farmers will be a a very BIG and FAST beneficiary of our deal with China. They intend to start purchasing agricultural product immediately. We make the finest and cleanest product in the World, and that is what China wants. Farmers, I LOVE YOU!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2018

The president’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, told reporters Monday that there will be “specific changes right away” to help the agricultural industry, even as the majority of the tentative agreement remains to be worked out over a 90-day-period agreed upon between the U.S. and China.

The president also declared in a tweet late Sunday night that China has “agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars,” though he didn’t offer any further details.

China has agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the U.S. Currently the tariff is 40%.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2018

Despite the president’s detailed claim, the president’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said Monday that there is no “specific” agreement on what level Chinese auto tariffs will drop to, while Mnuchin said the two leaders had “specific discussions on where auto tariffs will come down to” but said he wasn’t in a position to publicly reveal what the numbers in the tentative agreement are, nor did he clarify whether tariffs will be completely removed or reduced.

Mnuchin cast the weekend dinner as a breakthrough in the trade standoff with China and said there were “very, very specific” items that the two leaders agreed to have incorporated into a broader agreement that has yet to be finalized.

“There’s a specific understanding that we’re going to now turn the agreement the presidents have into a real agreement over the 90 days,” Mnuchin told reporters during a gaggle outside the West Wing, while the president was busy tweeting on the topic and said he has a “very strong and personal relationship” with President Xi.

The negotiations for a final agreement have already begun, Kudlow said.

“Stuff is happening today,” Kudlow said. “We want to move … much of the credibility of this discussion will hinge on rapid movement and implementation of the Chinese commitments and they know that and this is something we specifically talked about.”

While Mnuchin said the president reserves the right to escalate tariffs should negotiations not pan out as planned, he cast the weekend’s talks as a breakthrough in the administration’s efforts to check China and said the discussion included everything from purchasing more U.S. goods to intellectual property, to currency manipulation.

“This is the first time there was a commitment for an agreement from China that the agreement will contain specific dates, specific action items,” Mnuchin told reporters. “This is not going to be just kicking the can down the road.”

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