By Rebecca Ballhaus
BIARRITZ, France -- President Trump said China called U.S. officials on Sunday evening and said "let's get back to the table," a day after the White House said the president regretted not escalating tariffs further on Chinese goods.
Speaking to reporters alongside Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Mr. Trump called the discussions a "very positive development."
"They want to make a deal," he said. "That's a great thing."
Global stocks and government bond yields fell on Monday as the recent escalation in tensions between the U.S. and China cast fresh doubt on growth prospects. U.S. futures tied to the S&P, which were briefly negative on Monday, turned positive after Mr. Trump said China had called U.S. trade officials.
The Chinese government didn't immediately respond to Mr. Trump's remarks or to requests to corroborate the president's account of a phone call having taken place. Chinese government officials have repeatedly said that Beijing wants to negotiate differences on trade. On Monday, Beijing's lead trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, told a conference that China still wants to continue trade talks with the U.S. following heightened tensions in the past few days.
"We are willing to resolve the problems through negotiation and cooperation in a calm manner," Mr. Liu said in the speech. The Chinese government "strongly opposes an escalation of the trade war" as it harms the interests of China, the U.S. and the world, Mr. Liu added.
Mr. Trump also said Monday that French President Emmanuel Macron had asked him before inviting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to come to Biarritz on Sunday. Mr. Zarif's unexpected arrival appeared to catch the president's aides off guard.
A close aide to Mr. Macron said the US had been informed beforehand about Mr. Zarif's visit to Biarritz.
"I spoke to President Macron yesterday. I knew everything he was doing," Mr. Trump said. Of Mr. Zarif, he said, "I thought it was too soon to meet. I said I don't want to meet right now."
A spokesman for Mr. Zarif said upon his touchdown in Biarritz that he wouldn't be meeting with the U.S. delegation. The foreign minister met with Mr. Macron and other French officials and briefed the U.K. and Germany.
The renewed optimism from Mr. Trump about a trade deal with China comes as tensions have risen in recent days. On Friday, Beijing imposed new levies on U.S. goods, prompting the president to respond by increasing tariffs on Chinese goods.
"We don't need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them, " Mr. Trump tweeted on Friday. The president also directed U.S. companies doing business with China to explore relocating, an order he lacks the authority to give. Mr. Trump has said he might rely on the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, which allows the president to block individual companies' actions -- but only if he declares a national emergency first.
Later that evening, Mr. Trump left Washington for the Group of Seven summit here, where he has met with world leaders who have decried his tariffs and pressured him to end the trade war, saying it has hampered global economic growth and weakened alliances.
On Sunday, the president whiplashed the summit here as he suggested he was having "second thoughts" about escalating his trade war with China, only to have the White House issue a statement hours later saying the president's only regret was that he hadn't increased tariffs on China further.
Mr. Trump on Monday also praised Chinese President Xi Jinping. "One of the reasons that he's a great leader, Xi, and one of the reasons China's a great country is they understand how life works," he said.
Mr. Trump said the U.S. had received two calls from China but declined to say if he was speaking directly with Mr. Xi.
The U.S. president talked to reporters for several minutes about the talks with China, he also complained about the media coverage of the trade deal the U.S. has reached in principle with Japan and of progress toward OK? Middle East peace.
-- Noemie Bisserbe in Biarritz and Grace Zhu in Bejing contributed to this article.
Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 26, 2019 05:08 ET (09:08 GMT)
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