Top White House China hawk at G-20 summit after reports he would not attend

White House economic adviser Peter Navarro, one of the President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE's most hawkish officials on the administration’s trade dispute with China, was seen at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires Thursday after officials told reporters he would not be in attendance.

Washington and Beijing find themselves pitted in an escalating trade war, with each side slapping tit-for-tat tariffs on imports from the other nation as Trump continues to disrupt trade relations with other countries that he says are unbalanced.

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Trump will hold a working dinner Saturday night with Chinese President Xi Jinping to try to work out the two leaders’ differences surrounding trade and discuss a possible truce on an issue that Trump considers a reflection of his effectiveness as president. 

Trump will likely pressure Xi on long-standing complaints, such as alleged intellectual property theft and unfair trade practices, while the Chinese president hopes the White House considers delaying or scrapping plans for new tariffs on Chinese goods.

“I think that China wants to make a deal very badly,” Trump said this week in an interview with The Washington Post.

If no deal is reached, “we’ll be taking in billions and billions of dollars a month in tariffs, and I’m OK with either one of those two situations,” he added.

Though the trade dispute has deteriorated a once rosy relationship between the two leaders, signs of global economic concern are pressuring them to reach a settlement. Trump also faces negative headlines at home over the U.S. economy, particularly surrounding a volatile stock market, GM’s plant closures and his frustration with his hand-picked Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, for raising interest rates.

However, Navarro’s presence in Buenos Aires suggests Trump may be prepared to play hardball with Beijing.  The trade advisor has reportedly clashed with others in the administration who favor a less confrontational approach to the White House’s disputes with China.

U.S. officials have argued that the administration’s tactics have extracted a toll on the Chinese economy while minimizing its impacts on the domestic market, citing a robust labor force and strong gross domestic product growth. 

“I’m not suggesting that there aren’t winners and losers in that game. It’s a complicated game,” top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said this week, referring to U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. “But on the other hand, I think we are in far better shape to weather this than the Chinese are.”

Trump has indicated he plans to raise the existing tariff rate on $250 billion in Chinese imports from 10 percent to 25 percent on Jan. 1. The president has also threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $267 billion in Chinese goods, a significant escalation that could further inflame U.S.-China trade relations.