Donald Trump sees ‘strong signals’ as China vows action on trade

US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to give negotiators 90 days to resolve their trade spat after they met in Buenos Aires at the G20 summit

US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to give negotiators 90 days to resolve their trade spat after they met in Buenos Aires at the G20 summit

China's foreign ministry, the only government department that holds a daily briefing that foreign media can attend, has repeatedly referred questions on details to the commerce ministry, which has yet to say anything.

The president's optimism comes just after a day since he publicly declared himself a "Tariff Man", and stood by his protectionist trade policies even after stocks fell almost 800 points amid confusion over the result of Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump tweeted early Wednesday that Beijing is sending "very strong signals" about a new trade framework since returning from talks over the weekend in Buenos Aires.

As part of the truce, Mr Trump agreed to hold off on plans to raise the tariffs on US$200 billion (S$273 billion) worth of Chinese imports to 25 per cent beginning on Jan 1, leaving them at the current 10 per cent rate.

The impact is actually less than that being felt in some other sectors of the US economy, such as agriculture, but it is still a hit to the auto industry which shipped about 250,000 vehicles to China previous year.

Mr Trump said this week on Twitter that Beijing had agreed to "reduce and remove" tariffs the 40% tariffs it places on USA cars.

Stocks sank on Tuesday, as President Donald Trump threatened China with further tariffs, just days after the two countries agreed to a cease-fire in their escalating economic conflict.

Trump "shared his vision of all automakers producing in the United States and creating a more friendly business environment", the White House said in a statement afterward.

"When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. I am a Tariff Man", Mr. Trump said in a series of tweets.

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Mr Trump has long accused China of unfair trade practices that hurt United States citizens and the economy.

The comments by the president and his top advisers over the past 48 hours have only added to China's confusion about their negotiating partners.

"There are strong views in Japan that if China is honest about rapprochement with Japan, while respecting relevant World Trade Organisation rules based on scientific evidence, China should significantly speed up the process towards lifting the restrictions against Japanese goods and products", the source said. In a series of Tuesday morning tweets, the president showed optimism about reaching a "fair deal", but stressed that he is "a Tariff Man" if talks fail.

That approach so far has amounted to slapping tariffs on US$250 billion (NZ$361 billion) of Chinese imports and vowing to impose penalties on all other imports if China doesn't make changes.

The ministry lauded Mr Trump's talks with President Xi Jinping at the weekend as "successful", and said it was "confident" their agreement would be implemented. China's crude oil imports from the US had ground to a halt.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump said he would "happily sign" a "fair deal" that addresses U.S. concerns, should one be reached with Beijing. Chinese shares closed lower on Wednesday amid similar doubts.

"Let the negotiations begin", Trump wrote on Tuesday. Chinese officials, meanwhile, did not confirm any of these details.

"Officials now face the hard task of fleshing out a deal that is acceptable to the Chinese but also involves significant enough concessions not to be torpedoed by the China hawks in the Trump administration", Capital Economics said in a note this week, adding that higher tariffs could simply be delayed. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican and opponent of Trump's tariff policy, criticized the president's tweets on that basis.

The White House said China would agree to purchase a not yet agreed, but very substantial, amount of farm, energy, industrial, and other products from the United States.

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