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Did Trump and Xi make any headway on North Korea, trade?

President Trump pledged friendship during his visit to Beijing, but that didn't stop him from raising what he called a "very one-sided and unfair" trade relationship. Meanwhile, President Xi promised a more open and transparent Chinese market. Judy Woodruff talks to Bonnie Glaser of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Scheherazade Rehman of George Washington University.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump’s marathon trip to Asia continued today in Beijing and perhaps the most consequential set of meetings of the five-nation tour, with China’s leader, Xi Jinping.

    The two presidents put forward a united front on Mr. Trump’s final day in Beijing, and at tonight’s state dinner in the Great Hall of the People.

  • President Xi Jinping:

    (Through interpreter) We will definitely make a new contribution to realize a beautiful future for U.S.-Chinese relations.

  • President Donald Trump:

    President Xi, on behalf of the American people, I offer this to toast to you, to the people of your country, and to a friendship that will only grow stronger and stronger over many years to come.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump did raise again today what he called China’s very one-sided and unfair trade relationship with the U.S., but he also offered a backhanded compliment.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I don’t blame China.

    (LAUGHTER)

    (APPLAUSE)

  • President Donald Trump:

    After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit. I do blame past administrations for allowing this out-of-control trade deficit to take place and to grow.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That was a far cry from the campaign trail last year. Then, candidate Trump blasted the Chinese.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing. It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In Beijing today, President Xi promised that the Chinese market will be more open, more transparent and more orderly. But U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered a blunter assessment of the day’s trade discussions.

  • Rex Tillerson:

    In the grand scheme of a $300 billion to $500 billion trade deficit, the things that have been achieved thus far are pretty small. So I would say there’s a lot of work left to do to progress trade to the point that it will achieve President Trump’s objectives and our objective, which is to rebalance what has really occurred over many years, this trade imbalance itself.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    On North Korea, the secretary insisted there is no disagreement with the Chinese. And the president, who had pressed Xi to turn the screws on Pyongyang, sounded more conciliatory.

  • President Donald Trump:

    China can fix this problem easily and quickly. And I am calling on China and your great president to hopefully work on it very hard. I know one thing about your president. If he works on it hard, it will happen. There’s no doubt about it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    At Xi’s behest, President Trump also agreed to take no questions at their joint press briefing.

    His next stop is Vietnam for an economic summit on Friday, where he may meet with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

    Let’s take a closer look now at this pivotal point in the president’s trip with Bonnie Glaser. She’s director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And Scheherazade Rehman, she’s professor of international business and finance at George Washington University.

    And we welcome both of you back to the program.

    Bonnie Glaser, I’m going to start with you or security issues. Is it your sense that real progress is being made on this trip in terms of pressuring North Korea?

  • Bonnie Glaser:

    Well, the U.S. and China are very much in lockstep on the end goal.

    That is getting North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons. And for the first time, Beijing agreed to what has been called complete CVID, complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament. But the question, of course, is how we get there.

    And I think that the U.S. and China continue to disagree to some extent on strategy. The two sides did talk about implementing the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Xi Jinping apparently shared some bank accounts that have been shut down.

    They also talked about their assessments of whether or not these sanctions are having an impact. And Xi Jinping told President Trump, we have to wait a little bit. We have to see that it really begins to inflict pain on North Korea.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, if you add whatever China is saying right now it’s prepared to do with what it’s done until now, is there significant movement on their part?

  • Bonnie Glaser:

    In this particular visit, I don’t think there was right new movement, just new rhetoric.

    I think, behind the scenes, that President Trump asked China to stop or cut back on its crude oil shipments to North Korea, and it has not done that. Perhaps, when Kim Jong-un takes another step that’s very provocative, then maybe we will see China step up and cut off or cut back on those crude oil shipments.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what’s their hesitation to do that? Why?

  • Bonnie Glaser:

    Well, I think that the Chinese are quite concerned about potential instability in North Korea. They don’t want to see that regime collapse.

    And so I think they are tracking very closely what the impact of the sanctions are. So they would like to convince Kim Jong-un to recalculate his approach, to believe that economic development is the priority, rather than building that nuclear program. But I think it’s a work this progress.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Separately, China’s aggressive moves itself in the South China Sea, did you hear anything? Are you seeing anything out of this trip, out of these meetings that lead you to believe there is some progress made with that?

  • Bonnie Glaser:

    I don’t think so.

    Secretary Tillerson did say in his press briefing that it was discussed, the South China Sea and China’s island buildings with the Chinese. That is positive in itself, because I think many countries were worried that President Trump just wasn’t going to raise it at all, because they thought the trip would all be about North Korea and economic issues.

    So that’s reassuring, but the United States, I think, repeated what — the message it gave when President Obama was in power, stop building islands, stop militarizing, and uphold the international order, make claims in accordance with the international law, very good messages. But I think that the Chinese have their own agenda in the South China Sea.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, pretty much consistent with the last administration, is what you’re saying?

  • Bonnie Glaser:

    I think so.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And human rights, quickly?

  • Bonnie Glaser: 

    Human rights, I see no evidence that it was raised. Secretary Tillerson says that there was some discussion. I don’t know at what level.

    But I think what everybody was hoping for was that Liu Xiaobo, the dissident who died earlier this year, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, his wife, people were hoping that the United States would work behind the scenes to get her out. And it doesn’t look like that happened.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, let’s turn to the other big topic, Scheherazade Rehman. And, of course, that’s trade policy.

    How do you interpret — there was a lot of surprise when the president just seemed to completely drop the tough rhetoric that we heard from the campaign, when he accused the Chinese of this great theft of American goods, but basically saying, well, I don’t blame you for taking advantage of the United States.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you read that?

  • Scheherazade Rehman:

    Yes, so you have to understand this president.

    For President Trump, this is all about the optics. He needed a win and he needed to bring home a deal. He’s done that. He can come back and say, I went to China, I brought back home a deal.

    He’s got a $250 billion number on it. But we need to investigate the deal a little bit. It’s $100 billion towards energy in West Virginia and in Alaska. It’s $27 billion for aviation. It’s $5 billion for soybeans, $12 billion to Qualcomm.

    So, all this sounds good. But a lot of these contracts are not binding. They’re MOUs. Some of them were already in the works, and they waited until his arrival to make the announcements.

    So, we need to keep perspective. The one piece that wasn’t discussed which I believe could have been a wonderful tangible deliverable is intellectual property theft; $600 billion are stolen every year, and most of it coming from China. And this does incredible damage.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And this is something that U.S. officials have been talking about for years, that this is a major grievance against the Chinese. But you’re saying we know it wasn’t raised or it wasn’t — or we don’t know whether it was raised?

  • Scheherazade Rehman:

    Well, the only concession, if you want to read between the lines, is President Xi saying that we will have a more orderly market, a much more open and transparent market, which might mean that they might start looking at these issues, but no real discussion.

    I would say one thing. Not all of it is bad news. There is some good news out of all of this, and that is that we have moved away from the rhetoric from just a few months ago in the summer, where we were talking about imposing tariffs, 15 percent tariffs on China on automobiles, steel, household goods, 7 percent on Mexico. And that would have been a huge drag on the U.S. economy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, what happened? Why did the administration back off?

  • Scheherazade Rehman:

    I believe that he, that President Trump believed that his personal power could sway — and sway the deal enough that he could announce a deal.

    I don’t think a lot of the trade analytics were something that they were looked at. I think this is more about coming intact, saying that we have a deal, and then deal with all the details later. But the details of this deal are going to take decades to sort out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, if you would sum it all up, Scheherazade, and you look at, OK, does the U.S.-China trade picture, does it change, does it shift at all in the Trump administration with President Xi?

  • Scheherazade Rehman:

    I think it’s going to be slow and long hard work, probably mainly through the WTO in terms of holding China’s feet…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    World Trade Organization.

  • Scheherazade Rehman:

    That’s the World Trade Organization holding China’s feet to the fire about tariffs, about trade, about taxes, about financial reform, things that they have been slow in doing.

    And so I would — but President Xi has done a wonderful job of managing this particular visit, because, remember, he’s playing the long game. He’s got a 30-year plan.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Scheherazade Rehman:

    And he has just come into power again, probably at the height of what he — what we consider the last decade of anyone holding power in China.

    He’s got an economy that’s maturing, and he’s got a mountain of debt, so his term — he’s got a long-term outlook here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sounds like he may be coming out of these meetings happy, Xi Jinping.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Scheherazade Rehman, Bonnie Glaser, we thank you both.

  • Scheherazade Rehman:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Appreciate it.

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