US President Donald Trump said that he won’t meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping ahead of a trade deal deadline on March 2 when American tariffs on Chinese products are slated to increase.
Trump, who made the comments on Thursday during two days of negotiations between American and Chinese trade officials, suggested a face-to-face meeting could be combined with his trip to Asia later this month for a second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, reports The New York Times.
Asked by reporters if the meeting with Xi would take place, Trump said: “Maybe. Probably too soon.”
As to whether the two leaders would meet before the deadline, the President said: “No.”
The US has threatened to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 per cent from 10 per cent if a deal is not reached by March 2.
Such an escalation would raise prices for companies and consumers on products imported from China and could incite additional retaliation from China, further ratcheting up a trade war that has already begun to inflict economic damage in both countries.
Trump’s announcement on Thursday was a reversal for the President, who said last week that he planned to meet Xi to resolve any “final issues” before the trade deal.
Both Trump and his top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, have said that the March 2 deadline is a firm date and that the US will not extend the timeline, which the two Presidents agreed upon during the G20 Summit in Argentina last year.
Stocks in the US fell sharply on Thursday after reports that Trump and Xi would not meet.
The Dow Jones industrial average declined 220.77 points, or 0.87 per cent, while the Standard & Poor 500-stock index fell 25.56 points, or 0.94 per cent.
Negotiations between Chinese and US officials are still continuing, The New York Times reported.
Lighthizer and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, will lead an American delegation to Beijing next week for more trade talks.