By ZEKE MILLER and DARLENE SUPERVILLE, BIARRITZ, France (AP): Brushing off concerns about global economic instability, President Donald Trump on Monday defended the way he is trying to squeeze a trade deal out of China, saying it’s what worked for him in business.
Trump was challenged on a negotiating style in which he praises Chinese President Xi Jinping one day and castigates him the next. Allies are complaining that that’s contributing to stability problems for them and other nations, a questioner noted at a news conference closing out Trump’s participation in the Group of Seven summit.
“Sorry, it’s the way I negotiate,” the president said unapologetically.
He said layers of U.S. tariffs have hurt China so badly that it will have no choice but to make a trade deal with the United States.
His trade war has been blamed for a global economic slowdown and has sown fears of an economic recession in the U.S. Some of the leaders who spent the past three days meeting in the picturesque French seaside town of Biarritz urged Trump to bring the fight to a close.
French President Emmanuel Macron, the summit host who joined Trump at the top of the news conference, said the situation has created economic uncertainty and urged both sides to reach an agreement.
“What’s bad for the world economy is uncertainty,” Macron said, speaking in English. “The quicker an agreement is arrived at, the quicker that uncertainty will dissipate.”
Another ally, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, tried to sell the president on the value of free trade when they met over Saturday breakfast.
“We’re in favor of trade peace,” Johnson said.
Under pressure over the so-far fruitless negotiation, Trump claimed earlier Monday that his trade negotiators had been on the receiving end of two “very good calls” from China.
He said it was a sign that China is serious about reaching a deal and that talks would begin soon.
The White House announced weeks ago that China’s negotiating team was expected in Washington in September to continue the discussions.
Trump expressed his optimism about China hours after he sent mixed messages on the tariff war. He at first seemed to express regret Sunday over escalating the trade dispute, but the White House later said his only regret was that he didn’t impose even higher tariffs on China.
“I think we’re going to have a deal, because now we’re dealing on proper terms. They understand and we understand,” Trump said.
He declined to say whether he’s spoken to Xi or to identify those involved in the most recent conversations, saying only that they were at the “highest levels.”
“This is the first time I’ve seen them where they really want to make a deal. And I think that’s a very positive step,” Trump added.
“I have not heard of the weekend calls mentioned by the United States,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry.
Whenever he is asked about the Chinese, Trump almost always says he believes they want to make a deal more than he does.
After trade talks broke down this spring, Trump and Xi agreed in June to resume negotiations. Talks in Shanghai in July ended without any indication of progress, and the White House said at the time that Chinese negotiators would come to Washington in September.
Trump last week hiked tariffs on China after China taxed some U.S. imports in retaliation for a previous round of import tariffs levied by Trump.
Those moves sent U.S. stock markets stumbling. They were recovering modestly on Monday.
Trump also “ordered” U.S. corporations to find alternatives to doing business in China and threatened to declare a national emergency to enforce it. He softened the threat Sunday, saying he would only consider it if China again responded with higher tariffs on American goods.
Associated Press writers Joe McDonald in Beijing and Kevin Freking and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.
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