TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- US President Donald Trump is currently meeting the President of China, Xi Jinping for the first face-to-face talks between the leaders of the world’s two big super-powers.
After dining together last night at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, they will meet again today and have a working lunch before the summit concludes.
One issue we know is definitely off the agenda is golf. While Trump is a keen fan of the sport and has previously enjoyed a round with other world leaders, including Japanese President Shinzō Abe, China’s attempt to clamp down on corruption among Communist Party officials has seen them banned from playing.
But there are a number of other issues which are expected to come up at what Trump has said he expects to be “a very difficult” summit. These are five key issues expected to arise:
Last Wednesday’s ballistic missile test has raised the stakes on the issue of North Korea once again.
The regime in Pyongyang is dependent on support from China as it’s only international ally and the US has been ramping up the stakes on Beijing to take action. Last month Trump attacked China on Twitter for doing “little to help” deal with the issue.
For their the Chinese regime reluctant to push the North Korean regime too far for fear of an exodus of refugees across the border.
But with Trump making it clear he is prepared to act unilaterally and that “all options remain on the table”, North Korea will be high on the agenda.
Trump has been vociferous in his attacks on China over what he has branded their “unfair” trading policies. He has only just stopped short of accusing Beijing of being a currency manipulator and made it clear he plans to get a better deal for American businesses and workers.
Only last week on Twitter, Trump highlighted the annual $310 billion trade balance with China as an issue and his appointment of several individuals who viewed as anti-China, most notably Peter Navarro to head up the Trade Council, has not gone down well in Beijing.
The Chinese Government has openly spoken of a desire to avoid a trade war, while its state-run media has run bombastic editorials stating that such a conflict would only have one winner. But they go into talks with a wish-list, including fewer restrictions on the exports of sensitive US technology.
Trade will likely dominate discussions, but reaching agreements could take a lot more time.
After Trump’s precedent-setting phone-call to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in December and subsequent provocative tweets about the ‘One China’ agenda being open for discussion again, his administration seems to have backed away from a full-blown diplomatic incident over the issue.
He appears to have backtracked on his threats in a phone conversation with Xi in February, and whilst there are that a big military sale to Taiwan is imminent, both leaders have tried to play down Taiwan as an issue between them. It will inevitably be raised at some point though.
South China Sea
China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea are another issue which has drawn strong condemnation from the US Government.
Not only did The Hague find Beijing in breach of international law in its ruling in 2016, but their installation of military facilities on the islands is a threat to trade in one of the world’s busiest waterways.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has warned Beijing against throwing their weight around in the region and said the US would intervene to preserve international rights of navigation.
Human Rights is a standing issue between the two countries and after winning the election, some thought Trump might be willing to take a hardline on serial offenders like China.
But so far there has been little evidence that it is a priority for his regime, although the White House has said it will "continue to be brought up in the relationship.”
Whilst it will no doubt be raised, it appears at this stage that Trump will be happy to just agree to disagree on the issue.