Xi and Trump rubbing palms amid trade war

President Trump on Tuesday thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for his “kind words” about lowering auto import tariffs, amid heightened economic tensions between the two countries.

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump

Image: Xi Jinping and Donald Trump

“Very thankful for President Xi of China’s kind words on tariffs and automobile barriers…also, his enlightenment on intellectual property and technology transfers. We will make great progress together,” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s tweet came in response to a speech the Chinese leader gave on Monday, in which he renewed his promise to “significantly lower” import tariffs, including taxes on automobiles.

Stock markets rose after Xi’s remarks, but it remains unclear whether they will end the economic dispute between the U.S. and China, which was ignited after Trump announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum and led to concerns over a brewing trade war.

Xi’s remarks mostly reiterated pre-existing commitments and contained few new initiatives, raising doubts among some observers that it would be enough to defuse tensions.

Trump earlier threatened to slap $150 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese imports in order to counter what he says are Beijing’s unfair trade practices, including forced transfers of intellectual property from U.S. businesses in order to do business there.

“This offer of opening #China market is a total farce,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted before Trump’s remarks.

The senator said it was “unbelievable” to hear Xi’s vow to open Chinese markets, given that “his government has dramatically increased control over & censorship of the internet.”

But Trump appeared pleased by the Chinese leader’s comments, even though the president just one day earlier accused China of unfairly targeting him by threatening tariffs on agricultural products. “It’s not nice when they hit the farmers specifically because they think that hits me,” Trump said of China.