Trump sees no Xi meeting by tariff deadline, stoking trade worry

Trump sees no Xi meeting by tariff deadline, stoking trade worry

Trump sees no Xi meeting by tariff deadline, stoking trade worry

SINGAPORE-Asian markets tumbled on Friday after President Donald Trump said he doesn't plan to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping before a tariffs truce ends in March.

Asked by a reporter whether he would meet Xi before the deadline, Trump said "No" - an about-face from his earlier suggestion that he will do so to "discuss some final issues" for a comprehensive trade deal.

Asked if a meeting could happen by March 1, he said: "No". Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are expected in China next week to deploy the third round of negotiations between the two countries that have lasted since late a year ago.

Time is running out for the USA and China to reach an agreement before the deadline the Trump administration has set to more than double tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods.

After China's lead negotiator, Vice-Premier Liu He, surprised Trump last week with a commitment to buy 5 million metric tonnes of American soybeans, a product at the centre of the tariff dispute, Congress stressed that the U.S. should not back away from its demands for key structural changes in exchange for China buying more American goods.

Trump claims that he is in a warm relationship with the Chinese president.

The news prompted a selloff in USA stocks overnight, with the S&P 500 Index closing 0.93% in its biggest drop in two weeks.

He does anticipate the US and China could reach a deal later this year to remove the tariffs, with the upcoming election cycle playing a role in the timing.

The United States has threatened to more than double existing tariffs on Chinese goods at the start of March if there is no agreement on measures to reform China's trade practices, which Washington says are deeply unfair. "They're making a mistake because they need to be prepared", he said. Washington accuses China of stealing USA intellectual property and forcing American businesses to share their technology with Chinese companies.

During his meeting with Liu, Trump hailed a Chinese offer to buy 5 million tons of soybeans, the most tangible outcome of two days of talks.

"If we do make headway, and the president thinks we're close enough that he can close the deal on major issues, then I think he'll want to have a meeting and do that", he told reporters.

But Reuters later cited three anonymous sources who indicated the CNBC report was incorrect.

Lighthizer said last week that tariffs had not been a subject of the talks.

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