Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

G-20 Summit: Trump, Xi Agree To Renew Trade Talks


Now we'll check in on President Trump. He is in South Korea today, and tomorrow, he's planning to visit the demilitarized zone on the border with North Korea, and there's a chance he will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un while he is there. Trump issued a surprise invitation to Kim via Twitter, saying he'd like to shake hands in the DMZ. The president also met this weekend with China's president, Xi Jinping, and the two leaders agreed not to escalate their trade war, at least for now. NPR's Scott Horsley has this report from Seoul.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Trump's last meeting with Kim Jong Un did not go well. The North Korean leader was not willing to dismantle his outlawed nuclear program on the terms Trump demanded, so the president abruptly ended their summit, and there's been little movement in the four months since. In recent days, however, Kim sent Trump a birthday card, and the president responded with a personal message of his own. Now Trump's suggesting another face-to-face encounter, this time with the backdrop of the heavily fortified dividing line between North and South Korea.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They just thought of it this morning. We'll be at the area. We may go to the DMZ or the border, as they call it. That - by the way, when you talk about a wall, when you talk about a border, that's what they call a border.

HORSLEY: In fact, this meeting may not be quite so impromptu as the president's letting on. Trump discussed it nearly a week ago with reporters from The Hill newspaper, but the White House urged the paper not to publicize the idea, citing security concerns. Trump says the North Korean government responded quickly to his invitation, adding perhaps Kim follows him on Twitter. But the president acknowledged there's no guarantee the North Korean leader will show up.


TRUMP: I'm in no rush whatsoever. But I was in South - I will be in South Korea. I'll let him know. And we'll see. If he's there, we'll see each other for two minutes. That's all we can, but that will be fine.

HORSLEY: Trump also met for about 80 minutes with China's president, Xi Jinping, and the two agreed to a kind of ceasefire in their ongoing trade war. Existing tariffs will remain in place, but Trump will hold off slapping new tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese imports - relief for American shoppers who would have faced higher prices on many consumer items.


TRUMP: We're holding on tariffs, and they're going to buy farm product.

HORSLEY: If China does go back to buying more soybeans and other produce, that would be good news for America's farmers, who've been heavy casualties in the trade war. It would not, however, address the larger issues of intellectual property protection and forced technology transfer that prompted the Trump administration to start this trade war in the first place. That will be up to trade negotiators to hammer out.

President Xi welcomed the renewed talks, saying cooperation and dialogue are better than friction and confrontation. The Chinese president noted he and Trump were meeting 48 years and about 100 kilometers from the scene of a table tennis tournament in 1971. Speaking through an interpreter, Xi said that's where teams from the U.S. and China began to lay the groundwork for peaceful relations between their two countries.


PRESIDENT XI JINPING: (Through interpreter) That marked the beginning of what we now call ping-pong diplomacy. The small ball played a big role in moving world events.

HORSLEY: To Trump's way of thinking, much of China's growth since then has come at the expense of the United States. But Trump says the world's two biggest economies don't have to be enemies. They could be great partners, he said - but only if they structure the right deal. Incidentally, Chinese ping-pong balls are among the thousands of items on the Trump administration's target list and would have faced a 25% tariff had the two presidents not served up this truce on trade. As of now, the small balls remain tariff-free.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Seoul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.