Trump says ?big progress? being made on possible deal with China

US 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 US 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.

The two nations have been in a trade war for much of 2018 that has seen the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods between the world?s two largest economies disrupted by tariffs.

Trump and Xi agreed to a ceasefire in the trade war, agreeing to hold off on imposing more tariffs for 90 days starting December 1 while they negotiate a deal to end the dispute following months of escalating tensions.

?Just had a long and very good call with President Xi of China,? Trump wrote. ?Deal is moving along very well. If made, it will be very comprehensive, covering all subjects, areas and points of dispute. Big progress being made!?

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.

Chinese media also quoted Xi as saying that he hopes both sides can meet each other halfway and reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial as soon as possible.

Xi said that he hopes to push forward a Sino-U.S. relationship that is coordinated, cooperative and stable, state media reported, adding that relations between the world?s top two economies are ?now in a vital stage?.

?China attaches great importance to the development of bilateral relations and appreciates the willingness of the US side to develop cooperative and constructive bilateral relations,? Xi said, according to Xinhua.

There have been small signs of progress ? and the absence of new threats from Trump.

China?s customs administration announced Friday it had approved US rice imports, after Beijing?s major state-owned grain stockpiler said it had resumed buying US soybeans, and China announced it would suspend extra tariffs added to US-made cars and auto parts starting January 1.

China is also targeting intellectual property theft in the country ? one of the main sticking points in the dispute with the US.

Trump initiated the trade war because of complaints over unfair Chinese trade practices ? concerns shared by the European Union, Japan and others.

Trump is seeking a massive reduction in the US trade deficit with China and deeper reforms to open the economy to foreign companies.

Trade negotiators from China and the United States are planning to meet in January for talks, Beijing said on Thursday, but stopped short of confirming the exact date or location.

?The Chinese and US economic and trade teams have always maintained close communication,? said commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng at a regular briefing.

?In January, in addition to maintaining intensive telephone consultations, the two sides have made specific arrangements for face-to-face consultations.?

Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish will lead the US team for talks during the week of January 7, Bloomberg reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

These would be the first face-to-face talks since the truce was agreed by both nation?s leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit meeting in Buenos Aires.

Last Sunday, Beijing?s commerce ministry said China and the US ?made new progress? on the issues of trade balance and intellectual property during a phone call between officials from the two countries.

Resolving the bruising spat could help shore up confidence in the Chinese economy, which itself is bracing for a slowdown.