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Trump: China trade talks going ‘very well’

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US may delay deadline for trade deal with China

WASHINGTON/BEIJING US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday trade talks with China were "going along very well" as the world's two largest economies try to resolve their seven-month tariff war ahead of a March 1 deadline for a deal.

US tariffs on US$200 billion (S$271b) worth of imports from China are scheduled to rise from 10 per cent to 25 per cent if the two sides don't reach a deal by then, increasing pain and costs in sectors from consumer electronics to agriculture.

Mr Trump told reporters at the White House his administration has a "big team of people, very talented people, over in China right now, negotiating on the China deal".

He added: "It's going along very well. We'll see what happens, but I think it's going along very well. They're showing us tremendous respect."

Mr Trump's comments echoed those of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who earlier told reporters in Beijing: "So far, so good," when asked about the progress of talks.

Mr Mnuchin, along with US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, arrived in the Chinese capital on Tuesday for meetings with Vice-Premier Liu He, the top economic adviser to Chinese President Xi Jinping, yesterday and today. Deputy-level officials started talks on Monday.

The two US cabinet officials were due to meet Mr Xi, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a source briefed on the arrangements. Representatives from the USTR's office and Treasury could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr Trump met Mr Liu at the White House when a Chinese delegation visited Washington for talks at the end of last month.

The US president had said on Tuesday that the deadline for an agreement could "slide for a little while", but he preferred not to do so. He added he expects to meet MrXi to close the deal at some point.

Mr Trump's advisers have described March 1 as a "hard deadline", but he told reporters a delay was possible.

Speaking to Fox News on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said: "We'll see what happens on whether or not the president makes a move to change the deadline."


She also raised the possibility of a meeting between the leaders of the two countries, saying Mr Trump's personal retreat at Mar-a-Lago in Florida would make a good venue.

"It will ultimately take... President Trump and President Xi sitting down face-to-face figuring that out and getting that final deal because they are the only two that'll ultimately be able to nail that down," Ms Sanders said.

Mr Trump has said he did not expect to meet with Mr Xi prior to March 1.

US Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky said on Wednesday the two presidents were expected to meet "sometime in March", but no dates were set.

"Hopefully they are going to be meeting and will be able to conclude a deal," Mr Censky told a renewable fuels conference in Orlando, Florida. "Agriculture has to be part of it. It's a necessary part of the deal." - REUTERS