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Jamie Dimon: Donald Trump should 'walk away' if he can't get a good deal with China

Jamie Dimon has a direct message for President Donald Trump ahead of trade talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit: Don’t agree to a deal just for the sake of getting one.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon says that we could get a trade deal with China, “maybe if we're lucky ... by the end of the year.” But he also said that if President Donald Trump “can’t get a good deal, then he should walk away. That's a serious statement I just said: If he can't get a good deal, he should walk away.”

In an interview this week covering a range of topics at the unveiling of JPMorgan Chase's new flagship bank branch, Dimon said that the failure to get a deal done with China “will have ramifications, but that's life in the fast lanes. We'll survive.”

Trump is scheduled to meet this weekend with China’s President Xi Jinping at the G20 meeting in Osaka, Japan. Addressing the trade war between the countries will be at the top of the agenda. “There’s a path to complete this,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC. The Trump administration had at one point made it 90% of the way to a deal, Mnuchin added, without specifying what held up the talks or why the deal hadn’t been completed.

Dimon made the comments in a conversation that aired on Yahoo Finance in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Asked about the president’s use of tariffs, Dimon said: “I have to confess I wouldn't have done it.” Dimon says he would have preferred marshaling U.S. allies to square off against China, but now believes tariffs have been effective in helping to force China to negotiate.

Earlier this month, Dimon met with Trump in his capacity as chairman of the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group for big U.S. companies that includes many prominent CEOs on its board.

Dimon described his recent visit to the White House. “I went with a bunch of other CEOs and we covered a wide range of subjects,” he said. “The Mexico trade deal, China tariffs and trade deal, Huawei, infrastructure, immigration. And that's our job, try to help him do the best he can. When he does things we don't like, we disagree with, we're pretty vocal on that, too.”

Asked if he disagreed with Trump on tariffs, Dimon responded, “If you would ask me to do it, I would have said, don't do it. But I want a successful conclusion, you know, not — not just getting them to the table. But the Chinese have told me it got them to the table. So that's what it is.”

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.

‘We don’t expect a quick resolution at this point’

As for not favoring tariffs, Dimon notes that “a lot of people have said the same thing. But we would like a successful conclusion. I agree with the fact that there's serious trade issues with China, and he's laid them out. IP, lack of bilateral investment rights, regulatory barriers, a whole bunch of stuff, state-owned enterprise. Those are legitimate complaints, which we need to resolve. We did not originally think he should do tariffs. We thought he should do TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] and get our allies together, and then face off against China. Not angering China, just tell China these are the terms of trade.”

Does Dimon expect to get a deal to emerge this weekend? “I think the best you can expect is that they have a good meeting, that they start renegotiating, that the tariffs are off for now, and give the teams a chance to negotiate a deal, which maybe if we're lucky could be done by the end of the year,” he said. “We all want the president to deal with the issues seriously, which he's been doing. A resolution would be good, but we don't expect a quick resolution at this point.”

No doubt Dimon will be following events concerning the China trade war this weekend — and going forward — closely.

Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.

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