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Presidents Trump and Xi Discuss Trade, Other Issues at High-Level Meeting

U.S. President Donald Trump and mainland Chinese President Xi Jinping held “positive and productive” meetings at high-level encounter held in early April at Mr. Trump’s presidential retreat in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump and Xi reviewed the state of the bi-lateral relationship and noted the importance of working together to generate positive outcomes that would benefit the citizens of both nations. They also agreed to work in concern to expand areas of co-operation while managing differences based on mutual respect.

According to a White House press release, President Trump addressed the challenges caused by mainland Chinese government intervention in its economy and raised serious concerns about the impact on U.S. jobs and exports of Beijing’s industrial, agricultural, technology and cyber policies. The president also highlighted the need for mainland China to take concrete steps to level the playing field for U.S. workers while insisting on the importance of reciprocal market access.

Notably, the United States and mainland China agreed to establish the U.S.-China Comprehensive Dialogue, a new cabinet-level framework for negotiations overseen by the two presidents with the following four pillars: the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, the Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue, and the Social and Cultural Issues Dialogue. The White House notes that the two sides agreed to undertake an ambitious agenda and meeting schedule to show progress and demonstrate meaningful results in each of these areas.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross indicated following the meetings that the United States and mainland China agreed to establish a 100-day plan on trade. While the specific issues to be addressed by this plan will be determined by mutual agreement in the near future, Ross said that the aim of the United States is to increase its exports to the mainland while reducing the current bi-lateral trade deficit. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, meanwhile, added that mainland China acknowledged the need for a more “balanced trade environment” and said that the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue will focus on trade, investment and other economic opportunities.

The House and Senate senior leaders on trade issues sent a letter to President Trump prior to President Xi’s visit highlighting key areas of concern regarding the bi-lateral relationship. Among other things, the lawmakers urged Trump to address market distorting behaviour harming U.S. manufacturers, discriminatory and distortive technology policies undermining America’s technology and digital advantage, weak intellectual property protection harming U.S. innovators, barriers to exports and market distorting policies compromising U.S. farmers and rural communities, currency and exchange rate policies, and retaliatory policies and non-transparent legal regimes. While it is understood that at least some of these issues were discussed at the Palm Beach meetings, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York) reportedly blasted the president for failing to secure any concrete outcomes or meaningful concessions while casting doubt on the real impact of the 100-day plan.

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