- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A top Chinese official said Tuesday he’s still not aware of the phone calls on trade that President Trump referred to during the Group of Seven meetings in France.

“I’m not aware of the two phone calls over the weekend that the U.S. side talked about,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a transcript of his remarks posted by the Chinese government.

Mr. Trump on Monday referred to weekend calls in touting China’s desire to restart negotiations, despite recent acrimony and tit-for-tat tariffs that are roiling markets.

“China called, last night, our top trade people, and said, ‘Let’s get back to the table.’ So, we’ll be getting back to the table,” Mr. Trump said during a bilateral meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in Biarritz.

Twenty-four hours later, Mr. Geng continues to deny knowledge of the calls, though did say “dialog and consultation” are the best ways to resolve the U.S.-China trade war.

“Regrettably, however, the U.S. recently decided to add new tariffs on Chinese goods as a measure to impose maximum pressure, which is not constructive at all as it serves no one’s interests,” Mr. Geng said.

“We hope the U.S. will remain calm, return to reason, and immediately stop its wrong approach so as to create conditions for bilateral consultations based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” he added.

Mr. Trump seesawed Monday between touting phone calls to his aides and pointing to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He’s call for “calm” in kickstarting negotiations after both sides ramped up tariffs on Friday.

“I have great respect for the fact that China called; they want to make a deal. I have great respect,” Mr. Trump said during the Al-Sisi meeting.

Meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the president emphasized the Liu statement over the calls.

“I don’t want to talk about calls. We’ve had calls,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ve had calls at the highest levels, but I don’t want to talk about that.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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