US President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he did not plan to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) before a March 1 deadline set by the two nations to achieve a trade deal.
Asked during an event in the Oval Office whether there would be a meeting before the deadline, Trump said: “No.”
When asked whether there would be a meeting in the next month or so, Trump said: “Not yet. Maybe. Probably too soon. Probably too soon.”
The remarks confirmed comments from US administration officials who said the two men were unlikely to meet before the deadline, dampening hopes of a quick trade pact and sparking a drop in US stock markets.
During a dinner between Trump and Xi late last year in Argentina, the two men agreed to take a 90-day hiatus in their trade dispute to give their teams time to negotiate an agreement.
If the talks do not succeed, Trump has threatened to increase US tariffs on Chinese imports. Another round of talks is scheduled for next week in Beijing.
Trump, who is proud of having a warm relationship with Xi, last week said that he would meet with him again to hammer out a final deal, after Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (劉鶴) presented Xi’s invitation at the White House.
A person briefed on the talks said that Trump’s advisers were concerned that accepting a meeting invitation at this stage would raise unfounded expectations for a quick deal and erode US leverage in the talks, where the two sides remain far apart on core structural intellectual property issues.
“There was concern about the downside for markets in particular if they don’t reach a deal,” the source said.
Trump is scheduled to travel to Asia at the end of this month for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam, and some had speculated that he could meet with Xi on the same trip.
Trump had indicated that was one option, or Xi could come to the US.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters that the leaders of the two economic superpowers could still meet at a later date.
“At some point the two presidents will meet, that is what Mr Trump has been saying, but that is off in the distance still at the moment,” he said.
The news prompted a sharp selloff in US stocks, dashing the optimism that had been building that the countries were progressing toward a deal before tariffs on Chinese imports rise to 25 percent after the March 1 deadline.
The S&P 500 Index closed down 0.93 percent in its biggest drop in two weeks. US Treasury bond yields dropped as investors sought safety in sovereign US debt. The benchmark 10-year yield slid 4 basis points to 2.66 percent, the lowest in nearly a week.
“I could see where that would impact the markets because obviously we had a lift in the month of January from optimism surrounding these trade talks,” said Peter Jankovskis, cochief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin are leaving on Monday for the next round of talks in China, one administration official said.
“They’re hoping for more success,” he said.
The US is pressing China to make major reforms, including on structural issues related to how it treats US companies doing business there.
Washington accuses China of stealing US intellectual property and forcing US businesses to share their technology with Chinese firms.
China denies the accusations.
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