Ford Motor CEO Mark Fields is feeling optimistic about the outlook for U.S.-China relations, the executive told CNBC on Saturday, a day after the conclusion of a summit between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
On Friday, Trump said that the two leaders had made progress on tough bilateral issues as both men met at the president's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Trump, who has previously taken aim at China's currency and trade policies and made protectionism a centerpiece of his economic policy, hailed Xi's visit in a tweet early Saturday.
However, Trump added that "only time will tell" whether the two countries could find common ground on trade.
"I was very encouraged by the fact that the two Presidents—and particularly very early in President Trump's term—have decided to come together and first start the process of establishing a relationship," Fields told CNBC on the sidelines of a Ford event in Shanghai unveiling a new line-up of cars for the Chinese market.
"It's very different when you talking on the phone versus when you have had a chance to meet and break bread with that individual," he said.
Chinese state media on Saturday cheered the meeting between Trump and his Chinese counterpart, as one that showed the world that confrontation between the two powers was not inevitable.
China is one of Ford's largest markets, and last year the automaker topped 1 million cars in the Asia Pacific region. Fields told CNBC that Ford expects sales in China "to be down very slightly" in 2017; however, he remains "very confident in the growth outlook."
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