President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he trusts Chinese President Xi Jinping's word on commitments to trade reforms, amid confusion about what the two leaders actually agreed to as part of their weekend trade truce.
The world's two largest economies agreed to halt an escalating series of tariffs following a face to face meeting between Trump and Xi at the G-20 summit in Argentina on Saturday. But Trump's claims about what China conceded have muddled the start of a 90-day window for talks to reach an agreement. The leaders are trying to come to terms over what the Trump administration calls unfair trade practices. The mixed messages coming from the White House, including Trump's boast that he's a "Tariff Man," helped to sink U.S. stock markets on Tuesday.
In tweets Wednesday morning, Trump pushed back on reports that China may not swiftly address the White House's concerns. He said Beijing sent "very strong signals" about taking action on trade after a "long trip, including stops," home from Argentina.
"Not to sound naive or anything, but I believe President Xi meant every word of what he said at our long and hopefully historic meeting. ALL subjects discussed!" the president tweeted.
Trump, who often declares victory even in the absence of concrete progress, quickly touted major Chinese concessions following Saturday's meeting. He said Monday that China would "immediately" start purchasing more agricultural products and "reduce and remove tariffs" on auto imports — statements that White House officials and the Chinese government struggled to clarify in the ensuing days.
In his tweets Wednesday, Trump tried to show progress in the talks. He shared a Bloomberg report that said China has started to take steps toward purchasing more U.S. soybeans and liquefied natural gas. He also said Xi promised to label Fentanyl, an opioid produced heavily in China that has ravaged American communities, a "controlled substance." He called for the death penalty for "distributors and pushers" of the drug, saying it would yield "incredible" results.
His tweets follow a Washington Post report that said the U.S. and China had offered differing accounts of what the talks yielded. Trump's claims of specific concessions also confused Chinese officials, according to the newspaper.
Trump came into office promising to crack down on what he calls Chinese trade abuses. His administration says it wants to address forced technology transfers, access to Chinese markets, theft of intellectual property and tariffs and nontariff barriers.
The world's two largest economies have fired several shots this year in a trade war that has raised fears of economic damage and rattled investors. Trump has put tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods, and threatened to levy duties on an additional $267 billion in products. China has retaliated with tariffs on about $110 billion in American goods.
Some of those duties targeted agricultural products in red areas of the country that supported Trump in his 2016 presidential bid. Trump has focused on boosting Chinese purchases of crops, after promising farmers that any pain from tariffs is only temporary to force a better deal with China.
The president showed optimism Tuesday about reaching an agreement with China to address his grievances. Still, he called himself a "Tariff Man" and threatened to fire another shot in the trade war if talks crumble.
Concerns about the U.S. and China failing to strike an agreement contributed to major U.S. stock indexes falling more than 3 percent on Tuesday. Stock markets were closed Wednesday, the national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush.