Trump refuses to meet Xi Jinping before tariff deadline

As a result Asian stocks tumbled Friday on worries that both countries won’t reach an agreement.

Photo: EPA US President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that there will not be a meeting, aimed at averting higher US tariffs on Chinese goods, between him and Chinese President Xi Jinping before a 1 March deadline. The move intensifies fears the two won’t strike a deal before the end of a 90-day truce and that tariffs will jump to 25% from the current 10%.

His statement Trump made at a meeting with reporters at the White House. Asked whether he would meet with Xi this month, as rumours have had it, the president responded “No” and shook his head. Then he added that such a meeting is "unlikely" to happen, but there would be one after 1 March. As a result, Asian stocks tumbled Friday on worries that Beijing and Washington won’t reach an agreement after all.

Yet, for now US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will still be leading a group of administration officials to Beijing next week as part of the trade talks. One senior administration official also told media the decision not to go ahead with a meeting between Xi and Trump before March 1 should not be read as a sign the talks were breaking down. Rather it was due to the amount of work that still needed to be done by negotiators. The two leaders could also speak by phone, the official said. 

The news comes as a surprise since last month Trump told reporters that he planned talks with Xi in late February, in an effort to strike a deal.

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