Trump sees no Xi meeting by tariff deadline, stoking trade worry

US President Donald Trump, right, and Xi Jinping, China’s president, greet attendees waving American and Chinese national flags during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov 9, 2017. (Bloomberg pic)

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said he won’t meet Chinese President Xi Jinping before a March 1 deadline to avert new US tariffs on Chinese goods, intensifying fears the two won’t strike a deal before the end of 90-day trade truce.

Trump responded “No” and shook his head Thursday when reporters at the White House asked him if he would meet with Xi this month. Then he added, “Unlikely.”

But the US president said the two would “maybe” meet later.

The S&P 500 hit a session low shortly after the news that Trump was unlikely to meet Xi this month was first reported by CNBC.

Trump told reporters last month that he planned to meet Xi in late February, adding there was a “good chance” of striking a deal.

The president is headed to Asia to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam Feb 27 and Feb 28.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are leading a group of administration officials headed to Beijing next week as part of the trade talks.

Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said earlier at the White House that a Trump-Xi summit was “off in the distance” but that he remained confident the two leaders would still meet at some point.

Kudlow added that he had a “good vibe” about ongoing talks, and said that he saw all trade issues between the two countries as potential topics for discussion. Still, he declined to say whether he expected negotiators to strike a deal before the end of the month, when Trump has said he will raise tariffs from 10% to 25% on US$200 billion in Chinese goods.