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Trump says ‘progress being made' With China after Xi call

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President Donald Trump reported "big progress" in trade talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, providing an optimistic start to what could be a make-or-break year for ties between the world's two largest economies.

[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump reported "big progress" in trade talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, providing an optimistic start to what could be a make-or-break year for ties between the world's two largest economies.

The two presidents spoke at length by telephone Saturday, with each expressing satisfaction with trade talks initiated after their meeting earlier this month in Argentina. Mr Trump said in a tweet that negotiations were "moving along very well" toward a comprehensive deal, while Chinese state media said Mr Xi believed both sides wanted "stable progress."

The call - coming just three days before the 40th anniversary of the US's establishment of formal ties with China - underscored the stakes for talks. Mr Trump's efforts to challenge Beijing on trade over the past year have dredged up a wide range of grievances and fueled concerns that the relationship is heading into a prolonged period of confrontation.

Mr Xi said ties had reached a "vital stage" on the anniversary and the world expected the two sides to work together, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. His remarks were followed up by a Chinese foreign ministry statement saying that the relationship had "traversed a tortuous journey" to the milestone and were "standing at a new historical starting point."

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The two leaders spoke as a US trade delegation prepares to travel to Beijing for talks slated for the week of Jan 7, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday, citing two people familiar with the matter. The exchanges suggest that months of market-rattling brinkmanship may be easing, and that the two leaders are following through on pledges made at their Dec 1 dinner meeting in Buenos Aires.

While China has recently taken steps that might help address US complaints about trade barriers and intellectual property theft, there was little to suggest that Mr Xi was considering fundamental changes along the lines demanded by the Trump administration. China's defiant response last month to US efforts to extradite Huawei Technologies Co executive Meng Wanzhou from Canada have highlighted deeper strategic suspicions between the two sides.

Negotiators have begun fleshing out a possible deal that includes ensuring greater access for foreign firms to China's financial sector, but Mr Trump may be overstating how close the countries are to agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported late Saturday, citing people familiar with the negotiations.

The US formally established ties with the People's Republic of China on Jan 1, 1979, cementing a rapprochement that began seven years earlier with President Richard Nixon's landmark visit to Beijing. Ties have endured several frosty periods, most notably when the US tried to isolate China for its violent crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989.

It was unclear who initiated the call between Mr Trump and Mr Xi. The White House, which typically doesn't release details of Trump's calls with foreign leaders beyond what the president reveals himself, didn't respond to a request for comment.

BLOOMBERG