News World Smooth words pave way for Trump’s tough talks with Xi

Smooth words pave way for Trump’s tough talks with Xi

The presidents of the US and China will meet for the first time since Donald Trump's election victory. Photo: AAP
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The long-awaited meeting between two of the world’s most powerful men, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, is expected to set a precedent for US-China relations.

It is the first time Mr Trump will host Mr Xi since his election victory in January.

And he will do so in style, granting his Chinese counterpart access to his exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort over April 6-7.

The White House told reporters that Mr Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will host Mr Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, at a dinner on Thursday evening (US time).

The New York Times reported that it had been Mr Xi who had pushed for a more relaxed atmosphere at the Mar-a-Lago country club, rather than at the White House, the customary location for private meetings between the president and world leaders.

Mr Trump bestowed similar special treatment on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by inviting him to the opulent resort but copped a backlash due to security fears over the highly public nature of the setting, after photos taken by resort guests circulated online.

Mr Trump and Mr Xi spoke over the phone in early February, during which the US President agreed to honour the “One China” policy, diluting earlier assertions that expressed some doubt as to his stance on the long-running rivalry between Beijing and Taiwan.

The leaders are expected to explore deep discussions about some of the more contentious issues relating to US-China relations, not least Mr Trump’s repeated assertions about China’s “unfair” trade practices.

Tension has surrounded the world’s top two economies since Mr Trump threatened to raise import taxes on Chinese goods during his election campaign, but he is yet to act on this since coming into office.

Mr Trump has repeatedly accused China of damaging the US economy through unfair trading practices, also accusing it of the largest cause of the US trade deficit.

A week prior to his meeting with Mr Xi, Mr Trump signed two executive orders to combat foreign trade abuses his administration says is contributing to the US half-trillion-dollar trade deficit, CNN reported.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, director of the National Trade Council, told White House reporters last week that the measures were “not aimed at putting China on notice” ahead of the pair’s first meeting.

But Mr Trump concluded his press conference last week in response to the executive orders by alluding to his upcoming meeting with Mr Xi and promising to “get down to some very serious business”.

He also tweeted earlier that he predicted a “very difficult” meeting with Mr Xi, hours before both governments announced the summit.

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang responded diplomatically.

“Both sides look forward to a successful meeting so that a correct direction can be set for the growth of bilateral relations,” he said.

“China will continue to work with the United States to think creatively, and keeping on pushing for greater balance in China-US trade.”

It is anticipated the leaders will also discuss how to tackle North Korea’s nuclear plans and US concerns about Chinese military ambitions in the South China Sea, among other matters.

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