Global trade is at stake as Trump and Xi come face to face

Published 8:29 am Wednesday, November 28, 2018

WASHINGTON — To hear President Donald Trump tell it, he was made for a moment like this: A high-stakes face-off. A ticking clock. A cagey adversary.

The man who calls himself a supreme dealmaker will have the opportunity this week to put himself to the test. The question is whether he can defuse a trade war with China that is shaking financial markets and threatening the global economy — and perhaps achieve something approximating a breakthrough.

Trump is to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, during the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Friday and Saturday. Unless the two leaders can achieve a truce of sorts, their conflicts will likely escalate: On Jan. 1, the tariffs Trump has imposed on many Chinese goods are set to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent, and Beijing would likely retaliate.

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Most analysts say they doubt Trump and Xi will reach any overarching deal that would settle the dispute for good. The optimistic view is that the two sides may agree to a cease-fire that would buy time for more substantive talks and postpone the scheduled escalation in U.S import taxes.

Yet no one really knows. Each side seems prepared to wait out the other in a conflict that could persist indefinitely.

In advance of the meeting, Trump has sounded his usual note of boastful confidence. Speaking to reporters on Thanksgiving Day, he said:

“I’m very prepared. You know, it’s not like, ‘Oh, gee, I’m going to sit down and study.’ I know every stat. I know it better than anybody knows it. And my gut has always been right.”