Trump jokes he’s ‘gotten nothing’ from Xi so far

PALM BEACH: President Donald Trump predicted a “very great” relationship with China’s Xi Jinping as the pair met for the first time at his Florida resort of Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, when cordiality replaced tough anti-China rhetoric.
Trump, in his signature red tie, warmly welcomed his Chinese counterpart Xi, decked out in contrasting blue, to what the US leader likes to call the “Winter White House” for a superpower summit in the sun.
Inside the luxurious resort Trump waxed lyrical that it was a “great honor” to host the Chinese leader, breaking the ice with a joke about his own dealmaking prowess.
“We had a long discussion already. So far, I have gotten nothing. Absolutely nothing,” he said to laughs from the delegation.
“But I can see that, I think long-term, we are going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it.”
This is the first time the two leaders meet, after a US election that featured frequent barbs at China’s “rape” of the US economy.
During that campaign, Trump had ridiculed his predecessor’s decision to offer Xi a coveted state dinner, saying that — if elected — he would serve the 63-year-old a Big Mac.
But inside Mar-a-Lago’s ornate dining room — with gold-trimmed chairs, fine cut glass and polished silverware — it was Dover sole with sauce and New York strip steak with whipped potatoes rather than McDonald’s on the menu.
The open agenda and the personal setting for the 24-hour summit are designed to allow the leaders to freewheel and build a rapport, in what is the world’s most important relationship. The Chinese leader has plans to reciprocate America’s hospitality, according to Beijing’s official news agency.
Xinhua reported on Friday that Xi invited Trump to a state visit in China later this year, an offer which it said Trump accepted “with pleasure.”
The Florida summit has been somewhat overshadowed by Trump’s decision to launch military action targeting the Syrian regime, in response to an apparent chemical attack.
Trump informed the Chinese leader personally of the missile strikes on an air base in central Syria, a senior administration official said.
Talks will continue up to a working lunch on Friday, and are likely to turn to more serious issues.
The summit stakes, both domestic and international, are high. Disagreements over approaches to North Korea or bilateral trade could, if mishandled, destabilise North East Asia or tank the global economy.
On the domestic political front, Xi is heading into a critical year. Ahead of a party congress that could cement his grip on power for years to come, he needs to show that he can deal with the US leader as an equal.
He “cannot afford to lose face while China aspires to be the new centre of gravity for the world order,” China political analyst Willy Lam said.— AFP