President Donald Trump said on Thursday he did not plan to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a March 1 deadline set by the two countries to achieve a trade deal.
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 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.
Late last year, during a dinner between Trump and Xi in Argentina, the two men agreed to take a 90-day hiatus in their trade war 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, said last week he would meet with him again to hammer out a final deal.
The president 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 United States.
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 per cent after the March 1 deadline.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary 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.