Freeport CEO: ‘encouraged’ by signs of U.S.-China thaw

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Freeport-McMoRan Inc (FCX.N) Chief Executive Richard Adkerson said on Thursday he is “encouraged” by signs of improving relations between the world’s two biggest economies, including the talks held this week between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“The world would be a better place if there is a reasonable relationship between China and the United States,” Adkerson said on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in San Francisco.

“We have to wait and see whether it’s a watershed moment or not,” he said, adding that the issues dividing the two countries are significant.

“This is not a situation where there’s going to be a magic wand to deal with all of the matters of concern between the two countries.”

Freeport is the world’s largest publicly traded copper producer, with operations across North and South America. China is the world’s biggest consumer of copper.

The company also operates the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, which is the world’s largest gold mine and second-largest copper mine.

Though a much smaller economy than China, Indonesia’s place in the world is of growing importance, Adkerson said, though “over the years, the appreciation of the strategic importance of Indonesia within the U.S has not been adequate.”

One sign that this appreciation is beginning to change was Biden’s meeting at the start of this week in Washington with Indonesian President Joko Widodo as part of preparations for the APEC summit, Adkerson said.

“All reports are that was an excellent meeting, despite the issues of the Mideast, that are very important and challenging,” he said.

Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, at that meeting pressed Biden to do more to stop Israel’s bombing of Gaza.

“Indonesia I know wants to have good relationships with the U.S., they want good relationships with China,” said Adkerson. “The U.S. needs to give attention, consideration and support for countries like Indonesia, and we’ll be better off for it.”

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Stephen Coates)