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Xi, Trump’s G20 meeting will be of ‘great significance’

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US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping arrive at a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in November 2017. Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – A meeting between the Chinese and US presidents at the G20 summit will be of “great significance” in resolving bilateral problems, a senior Chinese diplomat said yesterday, as the two countries try tentatively to get ties back on track.

China and the United States have put tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s goods and US President Donald Trump has threatened to set tariffs on the remainder of China’s $500 billion-plus exports to the US if their blistering trade dispute cannot be resolved.

Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping plan to meet on the sidelines of a G20 summit, which is being held in Argentina at the end of November and early December, for high-stakes talks.

Speaking in Beijing, China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Wang Yi said Mr Xi and Mr Trump reached an important consensus on the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties in their telephone call last week and were slated to meet in Buenos Aires.

“That will be of great significance for both sides to manage differences effectively and resolve issues in a practical way,” Mr Wang told reporters.

Mr Wang said China stands ready to work with the United States to remove disruptions, build trust and prepare fully for the meeting.

Mr Wang added that the more complex the situation it is, the more important it is for both sides to remain “level-headed”.

Relations between the two countries have warmed since the Xi-Trump telephone call, laying the ground for their G20 meeting.

In a further sign of improving ties, Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe are set to hold a security and diplomatic dialogue with US officials in Washington today.

Meeting US national security adviser John Bolton in Washington ahead of those talks, Mr Yang said on Wednesday that the two sides should “properly manage differences and carefully prepare to ensure positive results in the Argentina meeting”, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“China is committed to working with the U.S. to achieve a no-confrontational, conflict-free, mutually respectful co-operation in which both sides win,” added Mr Yang, who heads the ruling Communist Party’s foreign affairs commission and outranks Mr Wang.

In a separate meeting yesterday in Beijing with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Mr Wang said the two countries absolutely could resolve their trade dispute.

However, speaking in Singapore at a forum on Wednesday, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said there was a risk of an economic “Iron Curtain” falling between China and the US unless Beijing carries out reforms and that some people in the US would like to “divorce” from China.

Beijing can help avoid this happening by ending practices like forced technology transfers, and providing better protection for intellectual property, and by also genuinely allowing market forces to drive key decisions.

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