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US president dials down the rhetoric, calling his Chinese counterpart a ‘great leader’ 

US President Donald Trump said on Monday that China contacted US trade officials overnight to ask for a return to the negotiating table, hours after China’s lead trade negotiator called for dialogue.

On the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, Trump said Chinese President Xi Jinping was “a great leader” and he welcomed Xi’s “desire for a deal” and for calm.

The comments were a contrast in tone from Trump’s initial plans to impose or increase tariffs on all Chinese products, after China announced retaliatory tariffs on some American goods on Friday.

Just hours after China unveiled its retaliatory tariffs on US$75 billion worth of US products, Trump announced an extra 5 per cent duty on some US$550 billion of Chinese goods.

Trump also threatened to “order” all American companies to leave China, before appearing to backtrack from the idea.

Beijing could not immediately confirm whether China had requested fresh talks, with the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying he was not aware of the call.

But top Chinese trade negotiator Vice-Premier Liu He said on Monday that China was willing to resolve its trade dispute with the United States through calm negotiations, Chinese state media reported.

“We resolutely oppose the escalation of the trade war, which is not beneficial to the US or China. It is also not beneficial to the world,” Liu said at a smart technology conference in Chongqing in southwest China.


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