WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump voiced new optimism Monday that a trade deal could be reached with China to end the tit-for-tat tariff war between the world's two biggest economies.
Trump told reporters at the G7 summit in France that China had called top U.S. trade representatives "and said let's get back to the table."
He said the fact that Vice Premier Liu He, China's top trade negotiator, "wants to make a deal, that says it all. China wants to make a deal."
But the U.S. leader quickly added, "This has to be a deal that's better for us." He again cited the wide trade surplus China has enjoyed for years over the U.S., $419 billion more in exports to the United States than in American goods it bought in 2018.
"We have to balance our trading to at least some extent," Trump declared.
He said that tariffs he has imposed on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports and plans for taxes on another $300 billion worth of goods have hurt China's economy, even as China has imposed levies on $75 billion worth of American exports.
"China has taken a very hard hit over the last several months," he said. "They very much want to make a deal... very badly. They're not going to be able to compete. I don't think they have a choice" but to resume negotiations, which have been set to start again next month.
Trump has often praised Chinese President Xi Jinping as his friend and an able leader. But last week, as the reciprocal tariff wars unfolded, Trump questioned whether Xi, or Jerome Powell, the chair of the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, was the "bigger enemy" in roiling the world economy and unsettling U.S. economic fortunes. Trump has often attacked Powell for not cutting the Fed's benchmark interest rate fast enough to boost the U.S. economy.
At a news conference as the G7 summit ended in the Atlantic coastal town in Biarritz, Trump defended his whipsaw descriptions of Xi.
Trump shrugged, saying, "Sorry, it's the way I negotiate ... it's done very well for me over the years and it's doing better for the country."
French President Emmanuel Macron said that "my deep wish" is for a trade agreement between the U.S. and China. "What's bad for the world economy is uncertainty and the quicker an agreement is arrived at, the quicker that uncertainty will dissipate," he said.
Trump said a resumption in U.S.-China trade talks would be "a very positive development for the world."
"They want to get something done. Now, maybe it won't get done, but this is the first time I've seen them where they really do want to make a deal, and I think that's a very positive step."
Trump declined to comment about whether he had been directly in touch with Xi, but he repeatedly praised him, calling him a "great leader."
His comments followed those by Liu, who said Monday that China is willing to negotiate with the United States to end the ongoing trade battle, and that China opposes "the escalation of the trade war."
The developments did little to soothe major stock markets in Japan, China and Hong Kong, which all traded down Monday. But as the trading day went on, U.S. stock indexes advanced sharply.
The U.S.-China tariff war has roiled world stock markets for weeks, with wild gyrations in market performance, depending on the tariff announcements coming out of Washington and Beijing and then regaining ground when some hopeful signs surface that the two sides might yet reach a trade agreement in the coming months.