- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2019

President Trump said China is sincere about restarting trade talks as he pivoted Monday from the hostile rhetoric and escalating sanctions that had characterized relations in recent weeks between the world’s two largest economies.

Chinese officials publicly called for “calm” negotiations and spoke with White House aides directly, said Mr. Trump, adding that his pressure tactics appeared to be working.

“I don’t think they have a choice,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Biarritz, France. “I think they want to make a deal very badly.”

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He was quoted by Chinese outlet Caixin as saying “an escalation of the trade war is against the interest of China, the U.S. and the entire world.”

Mr. Trump said that makes him increasingly confident about landing an elusive deal with Beijing, though he insisted any agreement has to be fair.

“Otherwise, I will not make a deal,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

Stock markets appeared to be bolstered by the thaw. The Dow Jones Industrial Average regained some of its losses from last week and rose nearly 270 points.

It was a turnabout from recent days, when Mr. Trump announced heftier tariffs on Beijing in response to the latest Chinese levies on American goods.

He also threatened to sever all U.S. commerce from China. He said a 1977 law, the Emergency Economic Powers Act, gave him power to order American companies to remove their operations and supply lines from the country.

Mr. Trump had suggested that Mr. Xi was an “enemy,” and the White House said Mr. Trump’s only regret in waging the trade war was that he didn’t take a harder line from the outset.

On Monday, though, Mr. Trump couldn’t stop extolling the virtues of Mr. Xi and the Chinese officials who spoke with his aides.

“One of the reasons that he’s a great leader, President Xi, and one of the reasons that China is a great country is they understand how life works,” Mr. Trump said.

Whether the thaw lasts remains to be seen, but corporations, stock market investors and world leaders alike were hoping so.

“What’s bad for the world economy is uncertainty,” Mr. Macron said. “And the quicker an agreement is arrived at, the quicker that uncertainty will dissipate.”

Mr. Trump has spent much of his presidency trying to force new trade terms with Beijing. He argues that China has been abusing the U.S. market and stealing intellectual property while dumping goods in the U.S.

Democrats and foreign allies say they want someone to challenge China but are leery of Mr. Trump’s approach because of his unpredictability.

Mr. Trump said whiplash negotiations are his trademark.

“It’s the way I negotiate,” he said. “It’s done very well for me over the years, and it’s doing even better for the country.”

He said U.S. companies won’t need to leave China if negotiations are successful.

“If we don’t make a deal, I’d like to see them leave China, absolutely,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “If we make a deal, I’d like to see them stay there and do a great job.”

Mr. Trump claimed victory over the weekend in striking a tentative trade deal with Japan that includes a large purchase of U.S. corn. He is also lobbying Congress to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, which he secured to replace the 1990s-era North American Free Trade Agreement.

Mr. Trump said that despite the “rough patch” with China, the U.S. economy remains strong and hasn’t experienced inflation. Besides, he said, the U.S. soon will have collected more than $100 billion in customs fees from the higher tariffs he has imposed.

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