Donald Trump tweets praise for China President Xi Jinping after speech eases trade tensions

Stocks jump after Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing would reduce tariffs on imported cars and improve intellectual property protection, steps that could ease trade tensions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 10:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 10:47am

US President Donald Trump praised the “kind words” from China’s leader Xi Jinping and pledged “great progress” in the looming trade dispute between the world’s largest economies.

Still, the White House also admonished China to take concrete action on US complaints about unfair trade practices.

Xi earlier Tuesday pledged to open Chinese markets and lower tariffs, remarks that helped global investors breathe a sigh of relief after weeks in which Beijing and Washington appeared on a collision course.

Shares rose from Sydney to New York. The S&P 500 ended up 1.7 per cent.

“Very thankful for President Xi of China’s kind words on tariffs and automobile barriers … also, his enlightenment on intellectual property and technology transfers,” Trump said on Twitter. 

“We will make great progress together!” Trump predicted, hailing the speech in which Xi renewed a commitment to lower car import tariffs.

But following Trump’s tweet the White House made clear it wants to see changes enacted in China.

“We’re encouraged by the words but we want to see concrete steps and concrete action,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

“We want to see more than just the rhetoric,” she added, and until that happens the planned tariffs will enter into force.

The fresh sign of detente could further soothe fears that the tit-for-tat exchange of threats of new punitive tariffs on agricultural and manufactured goods could boil over into an all-out trade war, damaging the global economy.

Trump has signed off on duties on US$50 billion of Chinese imports which are due to take effect later this year, and he threatened to retaliate with tariffs on another US$100 billion in Chinese goods, after Beijing said it would target US agricultural goods among other items.

US officials have long accused China of forcing US companies to hand over technology, or stealing it outright, and of spurring massive industrial overcapacity, among other complaints.                  

White House officials in recent days offered mixed messages, suggesting in some cases the tariff threats were mostly a negotiating tactic, while demanding China reduce its trade surplus with the US.

In his address, Xi told the Boao economic forum on the southern island of Hainan that China “does not seek a trade surplus”.

Promising a “new phase of opening up,” Xi said China would “considerably lower” tariffs on cars and other products this year, take measures to liberalise automobile investment, and protect intellectual property – all areas that have been high on the list of demands by Washington.

“Economic globalisation is an irreversible trend of the time,” Xi told the Boao Forum for Asia. 

“The door of China’s opening up will not close, it will only open wider and wider.”

Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg