FOREIGN POLICY | Issued on: January 31, 2019
3:43 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. It’s a great honor to have the Vice Premier of China with us, and also the Vice Minister of Trade of China. We have had long discussions. This has been going on for quite some time. It will be, by far, if it happens, the biggest deal ever made — not only the biggest trade deal ever made. It will be the biggest trade deal by far, but it’ll also be the biggest deal ever made. The two largest countries doing a trade deal. There won’t be anything that will match that. And we’ll see what happens.
We’ve done very well. We’ve had a very, very strong relationship, as my relationship is with President Xi.
I think we’ll start by reading the letter that President Xi sent to me and to us. It puts us off to a good foot. And then we’ll also repeat a couple of the remarks that the Vice Premier stated. And then we are going to have Mr. Lighthizer speak for a couple of seconds. And we’re then going to get back to business, and you can go and have fun and write your stories.
So thank you very much for being here. We appreciate it. And if you could start by reading the letter from President Xi, and maybe you could speak louder.
INTERPRETER: Message from President Xi to President Trump:
I send you my best wishes as a new round of high-level consultations is being held between our two countries on economic and trade issues. I ask Mr. Liu He to bring to you sincere greetings and best wishes from me.
Right now, China-U.S. relations are at a critically important stage. Last month, we had a successful meeting in Argentina, in which we agreed to work together to build a bilateral relationship based on coordination, cooperation, and stability. That was followed by the good conversation we had through a phone call and the letters of congratulations we sent each other on the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic relations.
Guided by the agreement we reached, our economic teams have engaged in intensive consultations and made good progress. I hope our two sides will continue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and win-win cooperation, and step up consultations by meeting each other halfway in order to reach an early agreement that works for the interests of both sides.
Such an agreement will send a positive signal to our two peoples and the broader international community. It will serve to ensure healthy development of China-U.S. relations and contribute to steady growth of the world economy.
Mr. President, in our last phone call, you said you wanted for China to buy more agricultural products. I have made some arrangements about which, I believe, you might have been briefed.
As I often say, I feel we have known each other for a long time, ever since we first met. I cherish the good working relations and personal friendship with you. I enjoy our meetings and phone calls in which we could talk about anything. It falls to us to work together and accomplish things meaningful for the people of our two countries and the world at large.
Mr. President, if there is anything, you could always approach me through various means. I hope we’ll keep close contact in various ways. As the Chinese Lunar New Year draws near, my wife and I wish to send our New Year greetings to you, to Melania, and to your family. May you enjoy a happy and prosperous New Year.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a beautiful letter and we appreciate it. You may go with the Vice Premier’s statements, and then I’m going to ask for you to say a few words, Bob, if you don’t mind.
INTERPRETER: The Vice Premier said that President Xi attaches tremendous importance to the personal friendship with you, and he hopes to you — to see your continued success. And over the past two years, since you took office, you have made tremendous accomplishment on both the domestic and diplomatic front.
Thanks to your policies of tax reduction and deregulation, your U.S. economy, as I heard from my American colleagues over there, has now been enjoying high growth and low employment with unprecedented prosperity. And it is because of your decisive decision that has directly facilitated the major breakthrough — the relationship between the U.S. and the DPRK.
And under the strategic guidance of you and of President Xi and you, Mr. President, it is possible that China and the U.S. will have the possibility of striking a successful deal on trade.
And my trip to the U.S. this time is to follow through on the important agreement reached between you and President Xi to accelerate the 90-day consultation between China and the United States in the hope of striking a comprehensive deal. And we’ve been working conscientiously with Ambassador Lighthizer and Secretary Mnuchin over the past couple of days, and our discussions are going well. We have achieved a lot of important consensus towards the direction of striking a comprehensive deal, which is to be ultimately reached between you and President Xi.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. Bob, maybe you could say just a few words as to where we are, how we’re doing, what we’re discussing. And then maybe I’ll ask the Vice Premier to say a few words, and we’ll get on with our negotiations.
AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER: Great. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps, go ahead, if you want to say that.
THE PRESIDENT: Got it? He speaks very good English.
AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER: Based on many months of negotiations, we had two very intense, very long days of discussions. Your team was — all of your team was involved. I think we’ve made progress. We have much work to do if we’re going to have an agreement, but we made substantial progress. We focused on the most important issues, which are the structural issues and the protection of U.S. intellectual property, stopping forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, agriculture and services issues, and enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.
Both sides agree this agreement is worth nothing — if we can get an agreement, it’s worth nothing without enforcement. That’s been your instruction from the beginning. So we’re focusing — we have a lot more issues to cover, but we focused on the structural issues — the ones that you’ve been so focused on — and we talked about enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.
THE PRESIDENT: And you’ll be going in early February, with your group, to China to continue negotiations.
AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER: We are more or less — Mr. President, we are more or less in continuous negotiations. There will be a brief pause for the Chinese New Year — briefer than the Chinese want — but our people will be in contact. We’re going back and forth with papers and with discussions. The Secretary and I will be going over there shortly, and then we’ll see where we are.
At this point, it’s impossible for me to predict success, but we are in a place that, if things work, it could happen.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. And we look forward to that, and we look forward to the results of your trip. But you’re really discussing it anyway, whether you’re in China or here. We have a thing called the telephone and other means of talking. So I know you’re spending a lot of time, and it’s moving along well.
So I just want to say the Vice Premier is a friend of mine. He has become — he is truly one of the most respected men in Asia, one of the most respected men in all of China, and, frankly, one of the most respected men anywhere in the world. And it’s a great honor to have you with us.
VICE PREMIER LIU: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: And if you’d like to say a few words — please, Liu.
VICE PREMIER LIU: It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. President.
I don’t think you can hear me.
And I fully agree with the report that satisfies Ambassador Lighthizer, and we actually have to establish three key themes. First about (inaudible). And secondly, about drugs coming through. And thirdly, about enforcement or implementation.
But, at the same time, we’ll also discuss something from China: the need to do something where (inaudible) U.S. some problem with (inaudible).
So I thank you so much to be with you, and I’m waiting for (inaudible) in Beijing (inaudible), and I hope we will make a deal.
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll be going. And we look forward to that. And then a little back-and-forth, and ultimately, I know that I’ll be meeting with President Xi, maybe once and maybe twice, and it’ll all seem — it seems to be coming together.
I do appreciate the fact that you said so much about our farmers and that you’ll be doing purchases quickly about the farmers. That’s really wonderful.
VICE PREMIER LIU: Five — five million.
THE PRESIDENT: Five million —
INTERPRETER: Five million tons of soybeans.
THE PRESIDENT: Five million tons of soybeans. Wow.
VICE PREMIER LIU: Per day.
THE PRESIDENT: Per day. That’s going to make our farmers very happy. That’s a lot of soybeans. That’s really nice. And I know they said some other things, and we’ll put out a release for the press.
But the relationship is very, very good between China and the United States. And the personal relationships are very good, with the Vice Premier, with myself and President Xi, and with our representatives. It’s been very, very good. And, you know, you read a lot of things. Sometimes you hear good, sometimes you don’t hear good. But I will say that I think that the relationship that we have right now with China has never been so advanced. I don’t think it’s ever been better. But I can you tell you for a fact, it’s never been so advanced.
And certainly a deal has never been so advanced. Because, essentially, we don’t have a deal. We never had a trade deal. We’re going to have a great trade deal. But we never really had a trade deal with China, and now we’re going to have a great trade deal with China, if it all works out. And we look forward to it. It’s going to be great for both countries — not just us, not just them. This is going to be great for both countries.
And I know you’ve already done a lot of opening up China to the financial services industry. It’s been happening very much, very rapidly. And hopefully we can get that done for our farmers, our manufacturers, and likewise, the United States.
So it’s just an honor to be with you. And I will see you today, but I’ll see you a lot over the next month, that I can tell you. Okay?
Thank you very much. It’s a great honor. Thank you.
Q: Mr. President, when do you want to meet with President Xi?
THE PRESIDENT: We haven’t set up a meeting yet. I think we’re working on seeing where everybody is, and then we’ll meet to discuss some final issues. It may be a lot, it may be a small amount. But I have a feeling it will be agreed to pretty quickly by both countries. Both countries would like to see a positive result.
Q: And have you seen enough progress, based on what you’ve heard from your team so far, on IP and technology transfers?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Yeah, very much. Technology transfer, IT. I think that we have made tremendous progress. That doesn’t mean you’re going to have a deal, but I can say that there is a tremendous relationship and warm feeling, and we’ve made tremendous progress.
Q: Mr. President, did you talk to your intelligence chiefs today about the displeasure you had with their (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: I did. And they said that they were totally misquoted and they were totally — it was taken out of context. So what I’d do is I’d suggest that you call them. They said it was fake news, so — which, frankly, didn’t surprise me.
Q: We just ran exactly what they said to Congress.
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me. Excuse me. It didn’t surprise me at all. But we’re here to talk right now about China.
Q: Did the fact they didn’t bring up the border as the world threat assessment, did that undermine or undercut what you have said — that there’s a crisis at the border?
THE PRESIDENT: It didn’t undermine anything. We need a wall. And if we don’t have a wall, we’re never going to have security for our country.
Q: But they didn’t bring it up as part of the national security assessment.
THE PRESIDENT: Next.
Q: Does that undercut —
THE PRESIDENT: Please.
Q: Is there any more detail about the soybean offer and deal?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s so nice that — you said soybeans?
Q: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a tremendous purchase, which will take place now. And our farmers are going to be very happy.
Q: When does that start?
THE PRESIDENT: When is the soybean taking place?
VICE PREMIER LIU: They have already (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: They’ve already started.
VICE PREMIER LIU: And they will start another (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: So they’ve started on a smaller scale, and today they’re starting very big. And I very much appreciate that. Please tell President Xi. And on behalf of the agricultural industry, and on behalf of our farmers, frankly, we appreciate it very much. It’s a very big order.
VICE PREMIER LIU: Chinese people like U.S. farmers very much.
THE PRESIDENT: They like the U.S. farmers. Well, we have good product. And you can use it, and it’s —
VICE PREMIER LIU: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: No, but I really appreciated that. That was really fantastic to say. And that’s before we make a deal. It’s a fantastic sign of faith.
Q: Mr. President, was the Huawei case discussed during negotiations?
THE PRESIDENT: No, we haven’t discussed that yet. It will be, but it hasn’t been discussed yet.
Q: In what aspect? How will it be discussed?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it will be discussed. I’m sure at some point that’ll be — that, actually, as big as it might seem, is very small compared to the overall deal, but that will be discussed.
Q: Mr. President, is the plan (inaudible) the trips to see Xi and to meet Chairman Kim again?
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me?
Q: Would you combine the trips to see Chairman Kim for your meeting again?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s possible. We’ll see how it is. We haven’t discussed it yet. When President Xi and I meet, we want to have it down so that we have certain points that we can discuss and, I would say, agree to. But we’re not quite at that stage yet. But all of these representatives and these representatives are coming to a conclusion, except for certain very important points. And we want to make it comprehensive. We want to make a deal that we can look at and be proud of for many years — not where we have to go back and renegotiate, or we left things out.
So whether it’s intellectual property or whether it’s any of the other things that we discuss all the time, we want to try — would you say? — have everything included. We want to have it very comprehensive.
Q: What are the specific points that you feel like you need to negotiate one on one with him personally?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we really — we really have discussed many of those points today. But I would say, probably more than any other thing, every single point that you discuss in the newspapers and on television. Those are the points that we’re discussing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any point that was discussed by the folks that really represent you, and represent you well. It’s every single one of those points have been discussed in our transactions and our trade deal — in this trade deal.
Q: Mr. President, you said earlier you would be willing to postpone this. What did you mean by that? Do you want to extend the deadline? Or what did you mean by that?
THE PRESIDENT: We haven’t talked about extending the deadline. The deadline is March 1st. That deadline has stayed, and we really haven’t talked about it. Maybe we don’t — I don’t think we have to extend. Now, at a certain point, you’re going to have — this is a very complex, and a very large — it’s the largest transaction ever made, to be perfectly straight. We have to get this put on paper at some point if we agree. There are some points that we don’t agree to yet, but I think we will agree. I think, when President Xi and myself meet, every point will be agreed to.
One of the things that we discussed in Argentina was fentanyl. This is not a trade deal, this is a fact that President Xi was extremely good when he said that they would criminalize fentanyl, because fentanyl is killing a lot of our great American people. And if they did what they are going to do, it would very much halt or at least — I think it would stop fentanyl from coming into this country, which would be a tremendous thing. And so that’s a separate than a trade deal, but it’s a very important thing.
Q: Mr. Lighthizer mentioned enforcement. How do you envision an enforcement mechanism working?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we’re going to have strong enforcement language both ways. They want enforcement, too. And I think we’re going to have it both ways, and we’ll have strong enforcement language. This is a serious deal that we’re doing. This could be done very quickly, very easily, but it wouldn’t be comprehensive; it would be small.
And I just want to end by saying it really is a sign of good faith for China to buy that much of our soybeans and other product that they’ve just committed to us prior to the signing of the deal — is something that makes us very proud to be dealing with them. I think that the farmers who have already been notified of this by me and my representatives — and by Sonny. Sonny Perdue is here, the Secretary of Agriculture. I think that was music to your ears, Sonny.
SECRETARY PERDUE: Absolutely. Good news.
THE PRESIDENT: And that’s a big number. That’s a big number even for you to hear. Right?
SECRETARY PERDUE: Good news. Our folks will be happy.
THE PRESIDENT: Will you let the farmers know right away?
SECRETARY PERDUE: They’ll know before I (inaudible). (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: And that was more than even soybeans — that was the other things that we discussed before the press came in. They discussed other things that they are buying also. So, Sonny, if you let everybody know, that would be great.
SECRETARY PERDUE: We’d be happy to do that.
THE PRESIDENT: Were you surprised to hear that?
SECRETARY PERDUE: Pleased to hear that.
THE PRESIDENT: Ah, that’s going to keep the farmers busy. That’s going to keep them busy. That’s a big order.
So let’s keep going. Let’s start our discussions and we’ll ask the media to leave. Thank you all very much. We appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
Q: Is Secretary Mnuchin going over with Ambassador Lighthizer?
THE PRESIDENT: I think so. Steve, you’re going?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Yes, I’ll go with Ambassador Lighthizer.
THE PRESIDENT: Are you going? Are you going, too? Ask Mnuchin. She wanted to know about Mnuchin.
Q: Is there a date for that?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: We have a tentative date we need to confirm in the next couple of days.
Q: What about the summit with North Korean leaders?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s moving along well. The end of the month. The end of February.
Q: Any other details you can provide?
THE PRESIDENT: Early next week, probably State of the Union. Okay?
Q: (Inaudible) President Xi?
THE PRESIDENT: One way or the other.
4:04 P.M. EST