If China deal close, Trump says he might delay tariff deadline
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would consider delaying a March 2 deadline to reach a trade deal with China, saying the United States might not impose higher tariffs on Chinese goods if talks with Beijing were going well.
“If we’re close to a deal where we think we can make a real deal, I could see myself letting them slide for a little while,” Trump said during remarks at the Oval Office.
Trump’s comments came as U.S. officials were in Beijing for a week of talks with Chinese officials to try to resolve a trade war that has begun to inflict economic damage on both sides of the Pacific. The two countries are trying to work out significant differences before the March 2 deadline, when the United States has said it will increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent.
Both Trump and his top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, have previously said that the deadline is a firm date and that the United States will not extend the timeline, which Trump and President Xi Jinping of China agreed upon during a dinner in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last year.
But with many of the biggest issues unresolved and the deadline drawing near, Trump appeared ready to give both sides more time to negotiate. And he once again suggested that he and Xi may ultimately need to iron out the remaining differences before a final deal is reached.
The president had originally suggested that such a meeting could take place before the deadline but reversed course last week, saying he would not meet with Xi before March 2.
A delegation of top U.S. trade officials, including Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, arrived in Beijing this week to try to negotiate the outlines of a deal.
Trump characterized those discussions as “going well” and said he thought the United States had a chance “to make a real deal.”