President Trump on Monday said that China contacted U.S. trade representatives overnight and asked to “get back to the table” on trade negotiations.
Trump said that China wants “to make a deal,” referencing media reports quoting a top Chinese official saying that Beijing is willing to resolve the ongoing trade war through “calm” negotiations with the United States.
“China called, last night, our top trade people, and said, 'Let's get back to the table,’” Trump told reporters during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi on the sidelines of the Group of 7 (G-7) summit in Biarritz, France.
“So, we'll be getting back to the table. And I think they want to do something. They've been hurt very badly, but they understand this is the right thing to do. And I have great respect for it. I have great respect for it. This is a very positive development for the world,” Trump continued.
Trump also described Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “great leader,” marking a reversal from Friday, when he suggested the Chinese leader was an “enemy” of the United States after Beijing announced a new round of reciprocal tariffs on American goods.
Trump said his administration received two calls from Chinese officials, but declined to say whether he is speaking with Xi directly.
“They mean business. They want to be able to make a deal. It's very important that -- yeah, I think it's very important for them,” Trump said.
Trump said negotiations would start “very shortly” and predicted both sides are “going to make a deal.”
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he did not know of any phone calls between the two countries, Reuters reported.
Trump's latest statements further underscore his shifting messages on the widening trade war with China. The Trump administration first levied tariffs on Chinese goods over a year ago, and while both sides appeared to near a deal earlier this year, talks eventually broke down.
The president's remarks come one day after he said he had second thoughts about escalating the trade war with China last week by announcing increased tariffs on Chinese goods in response to the new round of tariffs from Beijing.
The White House later insisted in a statement that Trump’s only regret was not imposing higher tariffs.
Trump has in recent weeks endured increased scrutiny for his ongoing trade war with China, which has been blamed in part for the weakening of the global economy. Trump’s announcement that he would respond to China’s reciprocal tariffs sent stocks falling on Friday.
During a later meeting Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Biarritz, Trump said he was open to delaying planned tariffs on China while the talks play out.
“Anything’s possible. We’re having very meaningful talks. Much more meaningful than at any time, I would think. China is a great country, I would consider President Xi to be a great leader,” Trump said.
The U.S. is set to impose tariffs on more than $500 billion in Chinese goods come Sept. 1.