WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had a very good talk with his Chinese counterpart, amid signals from China that officials could soon meet face-to-face in their bid to end a yearlong trade war.

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to Bedminster, New Jersey from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Officials from the world’s two largest economies spoke by phone on Thursday, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in-person talks could follow.

“Secretary Mnuchin did have a call with the Chinese counterpart. They had a very good talk,” Trump told reporters at the White House, suggesting that China’s worst economic output data in nearly three decades could propel trade talks forward.

“We’re dealing with China. … They’re not doing very well. They had the worst year they’ve had in 27 years. We’re having the best year we ever had,” he said. “Let’s see what happens.”

Chinese data this week showed industrial output and retail data beat expectations, but overall figures showed the country’s economic growth slowed to 6.2% from a year earlier, the weakest pace in at least 27 years.

The United States and China have been embroiled in a tit-for-tat tariff battle since July 2018, as Washington presses Beijing to address what it sees as decades of unfair and illegal trading practices.

China has countered that any deal needs to be fair and equitable, leaving the two sides apparently still far from an agreement to end the back-and-forth that has roiled global supply chains and upended financial markets.

Hu Xijin, editor in chief of China’s Global Times newspaper, tweeted that an in-person meeting could soon follow Thursday’s phone call.

“Briefing of the Chinese side on phone talks between Chinese and US trade officials shows face-to-face consultation will not be far away. I think we can expect that some actions may happen, which would be seen as goodwill from each other,” Hu said.

The Global Times is not an official mouthpiece for the Communist Party, though its views are believed to at times represent those of its leaders.

The Chinese embassy in Washington and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office had no immediate comment on a possible in-person meeting.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan spoke by phone on Thursday with Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer regarding “further consultations, as well as the implementation of Presidential consensus reached in Osaka,” the Chinese embassy wrote on Twitter.

Global stocks were rattled this week after Trump on Tuesday reiterated his threat to impose further tariffs on Chinese imports, but he did not repeat that threat on Friday.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed during a Group of 20 nations summit in Japan last month to resume discussions, easing fears of escalation after talks broke down in early May.

At the time of the G20, Trump agreed to suspend a new round of tariffs on $300 billion worth of imported Chinese consumer goods while the two sides resumed negotiations.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Andrea Shalal; editing by Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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