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Branstad optimistic over Xi-Trump summit

By Zhao Huanxin in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-11-07 10:33

The meetings between US President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping, the next one scheduled for Wednesday, have been helpful in solving "thorny issues", Washington's top envoy to Beijing said on Monday.

"There is a lot of excitement and feelings that this could be very historic and significant for the Trump-Xi meeting here," US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said on Monday, two days ahead of Trump's arrival in Beijing.

"I think the chemistry between the two leaders is good, and that bodes well. If the two leaders can get along well and work out some of the differences, hopefully that can help the rest of us to work things out well," he said in a group interview, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Since Trump took office in January, the two leaders have maintained close contact. They already have had two face-to-face meetings, eight phone conversations and multiple message-exchanges on issues of common concern, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai said last week.

Branstad optimistic over Xi-Trump summit

Hailing the frequent interaction between Xi and Trump, Branstad said that meetings between the two leaders were helpful in addressing sticking points.

As is widely anticipated, the Korean Peninsula issue and bilateral trade would be atop Trump's agenda during his Nov 8-10 state visit to China.

Earlier media reports said that a 29-company business delegation, led by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, will travel with Trump.

Of the companies, 10 are involved in liquefied natural gas or other energy fields, increasing prospects for deals on LNG between the two economic powers, some of which already have happened.

Branstad also said a number of MOUs are expected to be signed during Trump's visit, covering manufacturing, energy and some other sectors.

"We want to advance economic cooperation and prosperity in America as well as in China," Branstad said. "We want to build on the progress and success that we already had to improve the relationship between our two countries."

Despite the US' anticipation of solving issues, including the trade deficit, Cui said Beijing is preparing for a "significant economic outcome" for Trump's visit, but cautioned that "some of the concerns will not be 100 percent or totally resolved with just one visit".

David M. Lampton, director of China Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, said the "absolute litmus test" for Trump is to come back with something that looks good economically, which is the key to domestic politics.

"Of course, in terms of security, he's got to find a way forward on North Korea," the former president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations told China Daily.

David Dollar, a senior fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, said the Korean Peninsula and trade had been the two "really key issues" at the four cabinet-level dialogues between China and the US held from June to early October, which were a prelude to the Xi-Trump summit.

"I think the two countries are cooperating pretty well on DPRK, and I think perhaps China is ready to make some opening moves on the trade side, but I wouldn't really expect anything big," Dollar said.

Dollar said that after the Party Congress, China might be ready to open up some of its financial services industries.

In his address at the opening of the landmark 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last week, Xi pledged to ease market access to services, availing the sector more to foreign companies.

Yukon Huang, former World Bank China director, said conventional economic wisdom about China is usually wrong, including claims that China was to blame for the US' huge trade deficit and job losses.

"The message for a Trump-Xi meeting will be something like this: President Trump, you are concerned about jobs in the US, you focus on bilateral trade, but in fact that's not the issue. You worry about American manufacturers investing a lot in China and leading to job losses at home, but in fact it is very little. That's not the issue," Huang told China Daily.

"The issue is that your service companies don't have as much access to China as would be sensible, sensible for the US, sensible for China," said Huang, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But official data show that the US already had logged a trade surplus in services with China.

Last year, the US trade surplus with China in services reached $55.7 billion, which is 40 times the amount of 2006, according to the Research Report on China-US Economic and Trade Relations, released by China's Ministry of Commerce in May.

J. Stapleton Roy, former US ambassador to China, said he hoped Trump's first visit to China would be "historic". But the question is the Trump administration is in a "truly unique" situation in that a large number of key policy positions remain unfilled.

"I can tell you that the Chinese have things they're prepared to do, but they are having difficulty in advance of the trip getting any indications of what the US side will do," Roy told China Daily. "That's not good not because of a strategy of uncertainty; it's because you can't send an instruction unless you have agreement on your side, and they don't have agreement on the US side."

Roy said that if the Americans are prepared to give something, the Chinese are prepared to give something, and that would be a good outcome.

"It takes two to tango," Roy added.


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