China and US leaders meet to discuss trade tensions

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Chinese President Xi Jinping and US Vice President Joe Biden meet during a meeting at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Friday

Leaders from the world’s two biggest economies have met in Argentina to discuss trade tensions and ongoing tensions.

President Xi Jinping met US Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Buenos Aires.

Mr Biden, who met China’s ruler for the first time, said improving trade ties between the two countries was a “good news story”.

However, analysts say they detected tensions in the meeting.

‘A brighter future’

Ahead of the meeting Mr Biden described it as an opportunity to “highlight the importance of stability and also to work on some of the rifts in this relationship that have been cropping up in recent months”.

The US state department later tweeted a video of Mr Biden’s remarks at the start of the hour-long meeting.

“First of all we have a brighter future if the US and China – the two largest economies in the world – could work together on mutually beneficial trade, on measures that will help ensure that everyone around the world has a high quality, decent life in our time,” he said.

“We also agreed to work together to establish a framework for transparency and confidence in the economic and financial systems of our two countries and other countries around the world,” he said.

“So overall we had a very good meeting and there was a lot of constructive discussion, both sides sharing their views about the future, and working on how we can work together to get some sense of a brighter future,” he added.

“For me it was a first day of working with President Xi; it was very productive, it was very hopeful.”

A challenge for China

China and the US were in the middle of an escalating trade dispute when the G20 summit kicked off.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to put an end to their tariff war. They also agreed to put limits on the use of forced technology transfers by US companies and the purchase of American goods.

But many analysts said the meeting between Xi and Biden was a significant step forward in improving relations between the two countries.

Ian Bremmer, the president of New York-based political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, told BBC News China was finally getting the message from the US.

“They (China) are finally willing to talk about the economic challenges that the US represents,” he said.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption US Vice President Joe Biden greeted by China’s Xi Jinping at a meeting in Buenos Aires

Under Xi, he told state media, China would move to greater economic openness to the world, find ways to fight protectionism, improve its environmental sustainability and reduce the government’s regulatory burden.

Analysts expect the US will continue to push for changes to China’s state-driven economic system, where huge investment is made in land, factories and infrastructure.

Some have warned the two countries will use the so-called Sino-US Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, which was set up last year, to pursue controversial initiatives such as the Chinese code of conduct in the South China Sea and a US$1 trillion (£794bn) infrastructure deal.

International mediation of the disputes could be a model for resolving the trade wars between the world’s two biggest economies, they say.

But US officials, including Mr Biden, have been unable to find favour in China with the new Silk Road Initiative, which seeks to promote increased infrastructure investment around the world.

While Beijing has promoted the project as “a way to break down barriers and help strengthen economic and political ties between China and the rest of the world”, the US feels it is part of its trade war with China.

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