Donald Trump plans phone call to Xi Jinping ‘very soon’ – and says China will get tough over fentanyl

Teddy Ng

US President Donald Trump said he would speak to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping “very soon” as Beijing warned it would retaliate if Washington continued imposing tariffs on Chinese products.

Adopting an upbeat tone on Thursday, Trump said that this month’s most recent talks between the two nations’ trade negotiators had been “productive”, with Beijing hoping to reach a deal with the United States and vowing to crack down on the flow of the deadly opioid fentanyl from China into the US.

“They want to follow through very quickly [on fentanyl],” Trump said. “This was part of the conversation that we had. They had a special representative actually come over and talk to us – a different group – and a message to me, a very strong message to me. They want to start doing that very quickly.”

Trump has previously accused China of failing to stop the export of fentanyl to the US, where addiction to the opioid has reached epidemic levels. China has rejected the accusations.

Asked whether he had spoken to Xi directly, Trump said: “I will speak to him. We have a call scheduled soon – [with] President Xi.”

Trump added: “We’re talking by phone and we’re having very productive talks. They would like to do something, I will tell you that.”

China’s top diplomat, Politburo member Yang Jiechi, made an unexpected trip to the US on Tuesday and met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The two sides said only that they had exchanged views on the development of China-US relations, with no details offered, but Trump said it had gone well.

“Nobody knew what was [discussed in] that talk except for myself, China and those two people. That was a very good conversation,” he said.

Trump’s remarks came after China vowed to retaliate if Washington imposed additional tariffs on Chinese products on September 1.

The US said on Tuesday it would delay imposing tariffs on around half the products targeted – including laptops, phones and other consumer goods – until December 15, sparing retailers and consumers pain during the Christmas selling season.

The prospect of more trade talks was further complicated by continuing unrest in Hong Kong after Trump weighed in on Wednesday, linking the city’s protests to a possible trade agreement by calling on Xi to resolve the issues with the protesters.

A commentary published by Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily on Friday said China had the capacity to counter American pressure until the end of the countries’ protracted trade war.

China sees ‘positive signal’ in Donald Trump’s US trade war tariff delay

The article said Beijing was compelled to hit back against the latest US tariffs on US$300 billion of Chinese goods and accused the US of breaking its word, but urged Washington to return to dialogue to resolve the year-long conflict.

“China will never compromise on any major principles no matter how much pressure the US side imposes,” the commentary said. “China will do what it says in countering any provocation and has enough capability to fight until the end.

“There are some people in the US who admitted publicly that the tariff increase on US$300 billion of Chinese goods on September 1 will affect American consumers due to inflated prices during the Christmas season, and inflict more pain on the American side rather than the Chinese side,” it said. “It shows that they know it is a dead end.”

But Trump said he did not expect China to retaliate, adding that “the longer the trade war goes on, the weaker China gets and the stronger we get”.

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