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Trump's tough trade tactics have ruffled feathers around the globe, but Burns said this case is different.
"He has the silent support, not so much public, of a lot of governments around the world who are also victims of Chinese trade practices," Burns said on "Closing Bell. "
The highly anticipated dinner between the two leaders, set for Saturday, will occur on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina.
"I bet a lot of those leaders around the table at the G-20 might be whispering to Donald Trump, 'Strike a hard bargain with the Chinese,'" Burns said.
The U.S. and China have been engaged in escalating tariffs. In September, the White House announced its latest duties on $200 billion of Chinese goods. If the two nations don't reach a truce by 2019, the tariffs will jump from 10 percent to 25 percent. It's part of the administration's plan to obtain what it sees as more favorable trade deals for the U.S.
Trump has already fired the first round in negotiations, said Burns, who served as U.S. ambassador to NATO and was the State Department's third-ranking diplomat during George W. Bush's presidency.
The president told The Wall Street Journal earlier this week that he expects to move ahead with the 25 percent tariffs and also suggested he could place a 10 percent tariff on iPhones and laptops imported from China.
"He's a cagey negotiator," said Burns. "He's trying to put the ball in China's court and see the amount he can get from China, from Xi Jinping, across that table on Saturday night.
He expects China to offer a guarantee that they will import a certain level of U.S. exports per year. However, the administration is more interested in structural changes to China's predatory trade practices, he added.
"It's a cat-and-mouse game between two very strong-willed leaders, strong governments," Burns said.