White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Tuesday dangled the possibility of a “breakthrough” between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart on trade at their upcoming Argentina meeting – but again said China has to blink first.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are set to meet Saturday evening for a formal dinner on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, their only scheduled meeting before January 1, when tariffs imposed by Trump on more than $200 billion in imports are set to jump to 25%.
Kudlow said the dinner could afford the two sides a chance to “turn a new page” in their bilateral economic relationship if Xi can “step up” and present a few new ideas to the United States.
“President Xi has an opportunity to change the tone and the substance of these talks,” said Kudlow. “This is a big opportunity. President Trump has indicated he’s open. Now we have to know if President Xi is open.”
Kudlow added that while there would be “interactions” between the two countries during the G20, any deal will be ironed out between the two leaders in real time.
“President Trump has a terrific track record as a negotiator,” said Kudlow. “He will know through fact and instinct how to handle this.”
That approach follows Trump’s model on other high-stakes encounters, including his meeting earlier this year with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on denuclearization.
Trump has repeatedly made clear that he isn’t satisfied with an initial offer made by the Chinese in a 142-point offer delivered in mid-November following calls between the two presidents as well as between US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He.
The US President escalated tensions in a Wall Street Journal interview published Monday, telling the paper that he would consider adding import duties on all Chinese-made goods including Apple phones if a deal can’t be reached with Xi.
Trump’s comments sent Apple stock down Monday evening and Tuesday.
The planned dinner between the two presidents is the only formally scheduled meeting at the summit in Argentina. Kudlow said additional meetings could be added to the docket, but nothing has been planned so far.
The White House has offered few details so far on the dinner and has yet to disclose who will be attending. Kudlow suggested it would be a reasonable expectation that each president’s spouse would likely join the two men, while noting that trade wouldn’t be the only topic of discussion between the two leaders.
Several members of the President’s cabinet will be attending the G20 summit, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, the country’s top trade negotiator, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
He declined to specify whether the two countries would issue a statement following the end of their meeting.
Plans for Chinese negotiators to come to Washington this week ahead of the Argentina summit collapsed last week amid the public exchange of increasingly pointed comments between Trump and Xi. But Kudlow said there have been “significant” preparations in the lead-up to this weekend’s meeting with each leader briefed on issues and history between the two sides and armed with talking points.
“This is a big deal,” said Kudlow. “We’re all going to try to do the best we can.”