Beijing, Washington Downplay Chance Of Xi-Trump Meeting At G20

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo)

There might still be a small chance Chinese president Xi Jinping will meet with president Donald Trump at the G20 meeting in Osaka, Japan from June 28 to 29 despite Tuesday's revelations by both countries that no preparatory work for this meeting is taking place.

"Preparations for the G20 summit in Japan are ongoing. We have nothing to announce at this time regarding specific bilateral meetings," said White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis.

A senior Chinese official previously told U.S. businessmen visiting China preparations had yet to begin for either a Xi-Trump meeting or to resume trade negotiations.

Analysts said without the tedious behind the scenes spadework carried out by career diplomats and trade negotiators, nothing in the way of a substantive deal is possible in only two weeks. It's not even certain if Xi will attend the summit despite Trump's blackmail threat to levy 25 percent tariff duties on $300 billion worth of Chinese exports to the U.S. unless Xi attends.

Analysts noted that whatever talks between Xi and Trump occur will be a massive letdown from the lofty expectations from just two months ago when both sides voiced optimism the talks will lead to a historic deal ending Trump's trade war against China.

"The atmosphere is poisonous," said one senior Beijing-based Western diplomat cited by Reuters about the current state of China-U.S. ties.

Media sources also confirm that officials and diplomats in Washington and Beijing have admitted there has been almost no preparatory work for a Xi-Trump meeting, mostly due to the increasing animosity engendered by Trump.

Trade negotiating teams from both countries haven't met since talks ended in stalemate on May 10. Trump imposed a new round of tariffs against China on May 17.

Despite the impasse, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow (one of the architects of the trade war) said Trump hopes to "pick up where we left off" in the talks with Xi last year.

For its part, China said it is open to more trade talks but has nothing to announce about a possible meeting between Xi and Trump, said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Geng earlier warned China will "fight to the end" if Washington escalates trade fictions.

Expectations from any talks are low, said Eswar Prasad, a trade professor at Cornell University and former head of the China department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"The best-case outcome from a Trump-Xi meeting, which seems a dubious proposition at this stage, would be an agreement for the two sides to resume talks. The prospects for even a temporary and limited ceasefire have dissipated and a prolonged period of trade and broader economic tensions between the two countries seems on the cards," said Prasad.

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