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NPR 2018-11-30

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President Trump Cancels Putin Meeting On Eve Of G-20

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Leaders of the world's largest economies spend this weekend in the southern hemisphere. They meet in Argentina. And President Trump will take the chance for a string of one-on-one meetings with other leaders. Those meetings are expected to include a meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Their last summit included a press conference in which Trump was widely seen as weak and submissive. And then there is dinner with China's president amid a trade war.

NPR's Tamara Keith is in Buenos Aires waiting for the summit and is on the line. Hi there, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hello.

INSKEEP: So let's talk about that meeting with Xi Jinping. What is the business that the two presidents need to get done?

KEITH: It's all about trade, and there's a deadline coming up. In this trade fight that has been escalating, it's set to escalate again January 1. That's when the 10 percent tariffs that the Trump administration imposed on China would amp up to 25 percent if they can't come up with some way to head that off. And if those tariffs are raised, of course, China would retaliate, as it has following earlier U.S. tariffs. So it would just continue the back and forth. So they are coming to this dinner not really expecting to be able to resolve all of their problems but hoping that a face-to-face meeting could begin the process of avoiding a continuing trade war.

INSKEEP: I suppose we should note the United States has been demanding some fairly fundamental changes in the way that China runs its economy, does business and allows for outside businesses to operate in China. Is this something you can really improve over dinner?

KEITH: Probably not. Experts who watch China and trade say that the groundwork really hasn't been done to come out and announce a big deal that solves all of these problems. Some these problems include intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, tariffs and other barriers to free and fair trade. There is a lot going on in this relationship, not to mention President Trump's insistence that the trade deficit come down, even though that is sort of less based in a sort of a genuine economic concern.

INSKEEP: So that's the meeting with Xi Jinping. Then there's this expected meeting with President Putin, assuming the two do meet. You don't know until they do. What is the business they need to address?

KEITH: The big issue is something that came up over the weekend, which is Russian aggression toward Ukraine that intensified with Russian vessels reportedly firing on Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea, seizing three vessels and injuring Ukrainian soldiers - sailors. The question here, you know, the U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have strongly condemned that Russian action. The question with this meeting is - if it happens - will President Trump publicly push back on Putin - Putin has denied it - or will President Trump sort of defer to Putin's denials as he did with election interference in - and that press conference that was held over the summer?

INSKEEP: Quite a few instances in which the president - if he favors someone, he will say they strongly deny accusations against them. And that, for the president, is the end of it. Tamara, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tamara Keith.


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