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Trade, North Korea likely to be key issues in Trump and Xi’s Mar-a-Lago talks

The two leaders’ meet assumes significance as Trump administration wants to work with China to reduce systemic trade and investment barriers that they have created leading to an uneven playing field for the US companies.

world Updated: Apr 05, 2017 22:37 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan times, Washington
Trump-Xi meet,US-China ties,White House
A combination of file photos of US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.(AP File Photo)

US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will discuss North Korea, trade, human rights and a whole host of other issues at their upcoming meetings. US officials are saying that the two leaders will also try and build a “personal rapport” to take forward a relationship often described as “complicated and difficult”.

Trump, who expects the meetings to be difficult, will be under pressure to raise the issue of trade deficit — of $347 billion — with China, which he once said was “raping our country”, and yet seek its cooperation on issues such as North Korea demanding urgent attention.

And Xi will face an unpredictable interlocutor who has seemed intent on triggering a trade war and has appeared prepared to re-evaluate the relationship completely, even the one-China policy that Beijing considers a core principal and thus is non-negotiable.

But they have to start somewhere. “The two presidents want to get to know one another; this will be their first meeting,” US state department official Susan Thornton said, previewing the summit for reporters on Wednesday, adding, “They want to build a type of personal rapport and working relationship they will be able to count on in times of opportunity and also in times of crisis.”

The conversations between the presidents and their cabinet officials, she said, will be “candid and constructive and business-like” and the attempt will be to identify some “priorities to focus on going forward” and will discuss the “full range of important issues that come up in our bilateral relationships and also global challenges around the world.”

For a similar get-to-know-one-other, former US President Barack Obama had hosted Xi at a California ranch in 2013. Trump is hosting Xi at his winter White House — Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida — on Thursday and Friday.

But while they get acquainted, Trump and Xi will be expected to deal expediently with North Korea, whose continued missile tests — 10 in 12 months so far, including one on Tuesday — has been a constant source of irritation for the US and has led to officials saying it needs urgent attention.

A terse statement from the US state department after the Tuesday test — that the US had nothing further to say — has received much attention, taken together with Trump’s recent comment that the US was prepared to act unilaterally.

The president told Financial Times in an interview recently, ““China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone.”

Asked if the US was prepared to go “one on one”? “Totally,” he had said.

First Published: Apr 05, 2017 08:15 IST