Shortly after President Donald Trump said Monday in France that Chinese officials had reached out by phone to restart trade talks, a representative of China’s Foreign Ministry said he was “not aware” of any such calls.
Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang clarified twice at a press briefing in response to reporters’ questions: “I am not aware of the phone calls over the weekend,” and “I haven’t heard of the calls.”
He said China strongly “opposes and rejects” Trump’s latest threats of tariffs, which Geng called “stark trade bullying,”
Hu Xijin, editor in chief of China’s Communist Party newspaper The Global Times, said in a tweet that top trade negotiators hadn’t spoken by phone in recent days.
Trump had told reporters at the Group of Seven summit earlier: “China called last night our top trade people and said, ‘Let’s get back to the table,’ so we will be getting back to the table, and I think they want to do something .... This is a very positive development for the world.”
He added: “We’ve gotten two calls and very, very good calls. They mean business.”
He indicated that the discussion involved Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (see the video above). He referred to positive comments about reaching an agreement that Liu made at a business forum in Chongqing on Monday.
“We are willing to resolve the issue through consultations and cooperation in a calm attitude and resolutely oppose the escalation of the trade war,” Liu said, according to Reuters. “We believe the escalation of the trade war is not beneficial for China, the United States, nor to the interests of the people of the world.”
The stock market was up Monday, boosted by Trump’s reference to the eager phone calls from the Chinese. No details were released about upcoming negotiations. Trade talks had already been scheduled for September.
Former hedge fund manager and TV financial personality Jim Cramer said Monday on TheStreet.com that it doesn’t matter if the phone calls actually happened. What’s important, he said, is that Trump was sending a signal that he’s willing to negotiate — and it boosted the market.
“Whether they called or not, by the president saying that he got calls,” he’s essentially saying: “I really attacked them on Friday. Maybe I attacked them too hard. I’m willing to walk it back if the Chinese are willing to play ball,” Cramer said.
Gai Xinzhe, a research fellow at the China Institute for World Trade Organization Studies in Beijing, told Bloomberg that “Trump pays great attention to the stock market’s performance. [He] may want to use a vague description of the call to stabilize the market sentiment and ease pressure. We will see what happens next.”