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By Vince Morkri
     BEIJING (MNI) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday reaffirmed his
friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping but also signaled that his coming
trade talks with China could be contentious unless China agreed to "reciprocal"
trade concessions.
     Trump, speaking a a press conference in Tokyo alongside Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe during the first leg of his five-nation Asia-Pacific tour,
said in reply to a question on China that the United States would take "very
strong action" that would "happen very soon" against countries that didn't agree
on trade deals with the United States.
     He also said his close relationship with Xi would not get in the way of
striking the best deal for the United States. "My relationship with President Xi
is also excellent. I like him a lot. I consider him a friend," Trump said. "The
problem we have with China is that for decades ... it's been a very unfair trade
situation," he said. 
     "Our trade deficit is massive. It's hundreds of billions of dollars a year"
not including intellectual property, Trump added.
     The United States has long charged that China routinely forces American
companies to transfer intellectual property to joint-venture partners in China
as a condition for doing business in the mainland. In August, Trump ordered U.S.
Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to begin investigating China's trade
practices, with the possibility of using findings from the investigation to
impose trade sanctions on China. 
     On Monday, Trump said trade discussions with China have been ongoing and
were centered on arriving at reciprocal agreements rather than on imposing
tariffs on Chinese goods. "When you tell somebody that you're going to charge
tariffs in order to equalize," some countries "don't like to hear that," Trump
said. "But when you say it's going to be reciprocal -- when you say that we're
going to charge the same as they're charging us" on imports, "it's much more
     "We really only have one country that charges us a 100% tax if we sell
things into that country, and yet when they sell the same product into our
country, we charge them nothing," Trump said of China's import restrictions on
some U.S. goods. 
     "Now, I've been against that for a long time. And you will be seeing we do
things about it," he said. "You will be seeing that the United States will take
very, very strong action."
     "Most of the legal foundation has now been done, and you're going to see a
very big difference, and it's going to happen very soon, because the United
States, by many countries, has been treated very, very unfairly when it comes to
     In Tokyo, Trump is also pushing a bilateral trade treaty that would help
reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Japan. 
     His visit to Beijing starting Wednesday will be high on ceremony, a "state
visit-plus,"  which will include a military honor guard, a formal banquet and
other "special arrangements," according to China's ambassador to the United
States, Cui Tiankai. 
--MNI Beijing Bureau; +86 (10) 8532-5998; email:
--MNI BEIJING Bureau; +1 202-371-2121; email:
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