Mar 19, 2019

Why a freewheeling Mar-a-Lago summit won't work with Xi

Xi welcomes Trump to Beijing in 2017. Photo: Thomas Peter/Pool/Getty Images

Kevin Rudd — the former Australian prime minister, who's now president of the Asia Society Policy Institute — warns that President Trump's freewheeling diplomatic style won't work with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

What's happening: Rudd tells Axios that Trump's preferred approach — meeting Xi at Mar-a-Lago to hash out a final deal — isn't a realistic way to get there. "The deep Chinese learning from the Hanoi outcome is that we Chinese would never allow that to happen to our leader," Rudd says.

  • Rudd, a fluent Mandarin speaker who has as deep relationships at the highest levels in Beijing as anyone in the West, sees an end to the trade war between the U.S. and China — probably within the next month or so.
  • "Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are driven by similar, underlying interests — stronger growth to their respective economies — in trying to put this one to bed as quickly as possible," Rudd says.

Rudd, who's in the rare position of being able to channel both Washington and Beijing, elaborates in an Asia Society Policy Institute post:

  • "Trump, as we have seen throughout his business career and most recently in Hanoi, wants to do a large part of it himself in a final round of brinksmanship with his opposite number."
  • "Unfortunately for the Donald, the Chinese just don’t do it that way with their leaders."

The bottom line, per Rudd: "Whenever the Mar-a-Lago Summit is held between Trump and Xi, ... however it is dressed up, for it to work it will need to be signed off in full in both capitals beforehand by Vice Premier Liu He and his American counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer."

  • "That’s where the art of this particular deal will have to lie, whether President Trump likes it or not."

Go deeper: Grading the impact of Trump's China tariffs

Go deeper

Trump's opportunity to use Bernie as an economic scapegoat

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Zach Gibson/Stringer, The Washington Post/Getty Contributor

Bernie Sanders is poised to become an economic scapegoat for both the White House and Corporate America, assuming that Sanders comes through Super Tuesday unscathed.

The big picture: If the U.S. economy remains strong, President Trump and CEOs will claim credit (as they've been doing for three years). If it turns sour, they'll blame Bernie (even though it's a largely baseless charge).

Why big banks are breaking up with some fossil fuels

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

JPMorgan Chase is the latest financial giant to unveil new climate commitments, and like its peers, it is hard to disentangle how much is motivated by pressure, conscience or making a virtue of necessity.

Why it matters: The move comes as grassroots and shareholder activists are targeting the financial sector's fossil energy finance, especially amid federal inaction on climate.

Trump acknowledges lists of disloyal government officials to oust

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Monday acknowledged the existence of assembled lists of government officials that his administration plans to oust and replace with trusted pro-Trump people, which were first reported by Axios' Jonathan Swan.

What he's saying: “I don’t think it's a big problem. I don’t think it's very many people,” Trump said during a press conference in India, adding he wants “people who are good for the country, loyal to the country.”