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Trump jokes he’s ‘gotten nothing’ from Xi so far

Trump-Xi summit at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida

PALM BEACH (AFP) – President Donald Trump predicted a “very great” relationship with China’s Xi Jinping as the pair met for the first time at his Florida resort of Mar-a-Lago, when cordiality replaced tough anti-China rhetoric.

Trump, in his signature red tie, warmly welcomed his Chinese counterpart Xi, decked out in contrasting blue, to what the US leader likes to call the “Winter White House” for a superpower summit in the sun.

Inside the luxurious resort Trump waxed lyrical that it was a “great honor” to host the Chinese leader, breaking the ice with a joke about his own dealmaking prowess.

“We had a long discussion already. So far, I have gotten nothing. Absolutely nothing,” he said to laughs from the delegation.

“But I can see that, I think long-term, we are going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it.”

This is the first time the two leaders meet, after a US election that featured frequent barbs at China’s “rape” of the US economy.

During that campaign Trump had ridiculed his predecessor’s decision to offer Xi a coveted state dinner, saying that – if elected – he would serve the 63-year-old a Big Mac.

But inside Mar-a-Lago’s ornate dining room – with gold-trimmed chairs, fine cut glass and polished silverware – it was Dover sole with champagne sauce and New York strip steak with whipped potatoes rather than McDonald’s on the menu.

The open agenda and the personal setting for the 24-hour summit are designed to allow the leaders to freewheel and build a rapport, in what is the world’s most important relationship.

Amid concerns about security and public perceptions, Xi and his wife are not staying at Mar-a-Lago, but at a resort and spa a short drive down the palm-fringed coast that is, for now, watched by snipers, tactical units and a coastguard cutter.

The two leaders were joined Thursday evening by US first lady and former model Melania Trump and Peng Liyuan – a celebrated folk singer who Trump hailed as a “great, great celebrity.”