WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Thursday he received a “beautiful letter” from Chinese President Xi Jinping and would likely speak to him during a critical point in high-stakes trade negotiations between the two countries.
U.S. and Chinese negotiators are scheduled to meet later Thursday, days after Trump threatened new tariffs if China refused to sign onto a new trade agreement.
“We were getting very close to a deal and then they started renegotiating the deal,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “It was their idea to come back. He just wrote me a beautiful letter. I just received it. I’ll probably speak to him by phone.”
While Trump said China wants a deal, he has said he is also happy with tariffs that he claims put “over $100 Billion a year” in U.S. coffers – a claim most economists say is the wrong analysis because China retaliates with tariffs of its own, and both countries pass on the costs of tariffs to consumers.
During months of negotiations, Trump has periodically threatened increased tariffs on China, but delayed them amid signs of progress towards a new trade agreement.
At one point, officials saw this round of talks as putting the finishing touches on a final agreement between the world’s two largest economies; now negotiators are trying to avoid collapse of the talks altogether.
Each side pointed the finger at each other as a Chinese delegation arrived in Washington for the new discussions.
“They broke the deal,” Trump said during his political rally in Florida. “They can’t do that, so they’ll be paying.”
China said it is negotiating in good faith.
In Beijing on Thursday, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce disputed Trump’s claims of “backtracking,” and said that “China is committed and has kept its promises” throughout the process.
“Negotiation is a process of exchanging opinions and reaching consensus,” said spokesman Gao Feng. “It is normal to have different views.”
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