President Trump said goodbye to his Chinese counterpart after two days of meetings Friday, declaring that they “made tremendous progress” but without any breakthroughs to announce.
Instead, the two sides agreed on a 100-day plan to address their differences on economic issues, which the Trump administration touted as an accomplishment in itself. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called it “a very big sea change in the pace of discussions.”
Ross said the Chinese delegation expressed an interest in reducing the trade deficit, which has provided the communist nation with trillions of dollars of hard currency but which has also restricted domestic consumption and fueled inflation. Trump has made reducing that deficit a priority for his own reasons, having campaigned on an platform of economic nationalism that blamed China for stealing American jobs.
Trump had also come into the talks hoping to use the trade issue as leverage to get China to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. That didn’t happen. “There was no kind of a package arrangement discussed to resolve this,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But he said Xi acknowledged that the North Korean situation had reached “a very serious stage.”
Trump himself often measures the success of his diplomatic efforts by the personal relationship he’s able to forge, and his first face-to-face meeting with Xi was no different.
“I just want to say that President Xi and all of his representatives have been really interesting to be with,” Trump said. “I believe lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away.” The two leaders had a working lunch and went for a short walk on a breezy, sunny, 72-degree spring day on Florida’s Atlantic coast.
Xi described the meeting as “unique,” and praised Trump for his “excellent preparations.”
The summit was already the most important in Trump’s 11-week presidency, and the first conducted not with an ally but a rival. But the meetings were overshadowed by Trump’s decision to launch a missile strike against Syria even while he dined with Xi at a formal dinner Thursday night. Trump informed Xi of the strike as the Chinese delegation left the dinner, Tillerson said.
Xi also invited Trump to visit China later this year, and Trump accepted the invitation, he said.
–USA Today, Gregory Korte