Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Xi Jinping, China’s president, shake hands during a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017.
On Thursday, the president contended China “ripped off” the U.S. with its trade practices. He claimed Beijing’s trade tactics sparked “an evacuation of wealth like nobody has ever seen before.”
The president has long argued that China’s massive trade surplus with the U.S. constitutes a trade abuse. He has also sought to punish Beijing for alleged intellectual property theft by Chinese companies.
Earlier this year, Trump proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods such as electronics and machinery in response to alleged intellectual property abuses. He floated an additional $100 billion in tariffs on other Chinese goods.
China proposed retaliatory tariffs on a variety of U.S. goods such as crops and aircraft. The possible Chinese measures sparked concerns about damage to the U.S. agricultural industry.
Tensions within the Trump administration have threatened to complicate this week’s talks. Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade advisor and a China hawk, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have bumped heads recently.
Navarro has sought a tough response to China, which has led him to disagree with some colleagues in the Trump administration.
Both sides have sought concessions during the trade talks. Washington and Beijing have reportedly discussed China dropping tariffs on U.S. agricultural products in exchange for the U.S. lifting a ban on American companies selling to Chinese telecommunications company ZTE.
The ban came in response to the company’s shipping of American goods to Iran and North Korea in violation of sanctions. It effectively crippled ZTE.
On Thursday, Trump said Chinese President Xi Jinping “asked me if I would take a look at” helping ZTE.
“I certainly said I would,” Trump said.
On Wednesday, Trump contended his decision to ask his Commerce Department to find a way to aid ZTE did not constitute “folding” to China’s suggestions. He tweeted that “we have not seen China’s demands yet.”
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Xi’s top economic advisor, told U.S. lawmakers Wednesday that he planned to work hard to address the countries’ trade imbalance and other trade issues.