‘Big progress’ on possible China trade deal: U.S. President

Vastavam web: U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Saturday that he had a “long and very good call” with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that a possible trade deal between the United States and China was progressing well. As a partial shutdown of the U.S. government entered its eighth day, with no quick end in sight, the Republican president was in Washington, sending out tweets attacking Democrats and talking up possibly improved relations with China.

Chinese state media also said Xi and Trump spoke on Saturday, and quoted Xi as saying that teams from both countries have been working to implement a consensus reached with Trump. “I hope that the two teams will meet each other half way, work hard, and strive to reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial and beneficial to the world as soon as possible,” Xi said, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. The Republican-controlled Congress was closed for the weekend and few lawmakers were in the capital. The shutdown, affecting about one-quarter of the federal government including 800,000 or so workers, began when funding for several agencies expired.

Congress must pass legislation to restore that funding, but has not done so due to a dispute over Trump’s demand that the bill include $5 billion in taxpayer money to help pay for a wall he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. He sees the wall as vital to stemming illegal immigration, while Democrats and some Republicans see it as an impractical and costly project. The standoff over Trump’s demand for funding will be a test for Congress when it returns next week.

Trump tweeted on Saturday that the deaths of two migrant children this month who had been taken into U.S. custody after trying to cross the southern border were “strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies.” On Friday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen visited Border Patrol stations in Texas after her agency instituted expanded medical checks of migrant children following the two deaths. She is also due to visit Yuma, Arizona, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement on Saturday.

In the interim, thousands of employees of federal agencies such as the Homeland Security, Justice, Commerce, Interior, Transportation, Agriculture and other departments were staying at home on furlough or soon to be working without pay. “The administration, the Department of Homeland Security [DHS], and the Coast Guard have identified a way to pay our military workforce on Dec. 31, 2018,” the service website read.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also said on Friday that it would resume issuing new flood insurance policies during the shutdown, reversing an earlier decision.