US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping struck a trade war truce, as Washington vowed to hold off on further tariffs and declared negotiations with China back on track.
The ceasefire that halts damaging trade frictions came in a hotly anticipated meeting between the leaders of the world’s top two economies on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
Trump hailed the meeting in the Japanese city of Osaka as a great success.
“We are right back on track,” he said.
There was little in the way of concrete details on what was agreed, but Trump confirmed Washington had committed not to impose any new tariffs on Beijing’s exports and that the two sides would continue talks.
“We won’t be adding an additional tremendous amount of $350 billion left which could be taxed or could be tariffed. We’re not doing that, we are going to work with China on where we left off to see if we can make a deal,” Trump said at a press conference.
“We will be continuing to negotiate.”
The outcome was likely to be seen as a win for avoiding any new tariffs.
“The base case scenario was met at G20 and while we are no worse for wear, let’s see what the G20 hangover brings,” said Stephen Innes, market analyst at Vanguard Markets.
Down the tubes
Trump struck a conciliatory tone from his arrival in Japan for the summit, despite saying China’s economy was going down the tubes before he set out for Osaka.
He said he was ready for a historic deal with China as the leaders kicked off their meeting, and Xi told him that dialogue was better than confrontation.
In their final statement, the G20 leaders admitted that most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified, echoing hard-won language from their finance ministers at a meeting earlier this month.
There were few more concrete details about the closed-door discussions but Trump suggested a potentially softer position on the Chinese telecoms firm Huawei, which has been a sticking point in the trade war.
He said US companies could sell equipment in cases where there’s no great national security problem to the firm, which Washington fears pose security risks.
But it was not immediately clear whether the comments marked a material change on Huawei, which has essentially been barred from accessing crucial US technology.
The tete-a-tete between the US and Chinese leaders – the first since the last G20 in December – cast a long shadow over this year’s gathering in Osaka.
Protectionism and tariffs wars have proved a major headwind for a world economy already buffeted by geopolitical tensions and Brexit.
On Friday, the European Union and the South American trade bloc Mercosur offered a ray of trade hope by sealing a blockbuster deal after 20 years of talks, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hailing it as a strong message in support of rules-based trade.
Go much further
Trade has proved far from the only contentious issue on the summit table, with climate change another major sticking point.
Negotiations ran into the night, with US opposition proving difficult to overcome.
In the end, a deal of sorts was reached, with 19 members – minus the United States – agreeing Saturday to the irreversibility of the Paris climate deal and pledging its full implementation.
The language in the final statement after the Osaka summit mirrored that agreed during last year’s G20 but this did not satisfy French President Emmanuel Macron who urged leaders to go much further on climate change.
Trump has dominated the headlines from the summit, and once again caught observers by surprise by tweeting early Saturday that he was open to meeting North Korea’s Kim Jong Un while in South Korea this weekend.
“If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!,” he wrote.
He later said he would be happy to step over the border into North Korea, which would represent an extraordinary move for a US leader after decades of enmity between Washington and Pyongyang.
President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead the South African delegation to the annual G20 Leaders’ Summit when he undertakes a working visit to Japan from 28 to 29 June 2019, the Presidency said in a statement on Thursday.
It will be the president’s first international engagement since his inauguration after the May general elections. It is also the first time Japan will host the G20 Summit, the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting, the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and other ministerial meetings.
Ramaphosa’s G20 entourage
The summit will be held in Osaka while other meetings will be hosted at eight different locations throughout Japan.
Ramaphosa will be accompanied by Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor and Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel.
The G20 was established in 1999 to increase multilateral co-operation for the recovery of the global economy, bring stability to the global financial system, promote long-term sustainable growth and to strengthen growth and global governance.
This year’s summit will focus on eight key themes spanning the global economy, trade and investment, innovation, environment and energy, employment, women’s empowerment, development and health, the statement said.
It said that the themes mirror South Africa’s focus areas as outlined in Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address last week Thursday.
“South Africa’s participation in the summit arises from South Africa’s international relations policy which is directed at creating a better South Africa and contributing to a better Africa and a better world,” the Presidency said.
It said the summit provides a platform for South Africa to secure financial and other support for infrastructure development, which will advance “the G20 Compact with Africa initiative and reinforcing the need for strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth at the national and global level”.
The country, which has co-chaired the G20 Development Working Group since 2010, will garner support for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa and developing regions and countries.
This will include combating illicit financial flows that deprive Africa of resources that could otherwise be harnessed for its development.
“Through this platform, South Africa has been able to support the Japanese Presidency’s deliverable on Human Capital Investment that brings together education and health,” the statement said.
Ramaphosa to attend BRICS leaders meeting
Among others, Ramaphosa will attend the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) leaders meeting, which Brazil will chair.
He will convene the standing trilateral meeting of African leaders to discuss Africa’s priorities for the summit with African Union chair, Egypt, and Senegal (Nepad president).
Ramaphosa will also join the China-Africa leaders meeting in which South Africa, Egypt, Senegal and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will participate, as well as a series of bilateral meetings with other leaders on the side of G20 Summit.
Finally, Ramaphosa will address a business round table engagement with Japanese business leaders, which Patel will chair.
By African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Naomi Mackay.