By Jenny Leonard, Jennifer Jacobs, and Jeff Black
A meeting between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping to sign an agreement to end their trade war won’t occur this month and is more likely to happen in April at the earliest, three people familiar with the matter said.
Despite claims of progress in talks by both sides, a hoped-for summit at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort will now take place at the end of April if it happens at all, according to one of the people. China is pressing for a formal state visit rather than a lower-key appearance just to sign a trade deal, the person said.
Xi’s staff have scrapped planning for a potential flight to the U.S. following a trip to Europe later this month, a separate person said. The people asked not to be named as the details are private.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this week pointed to “major issues” still unresolved in the talks, with few signs of a breakthrough on the most difficult subjects including treatment of intellectual property. Chinese officials have also prickled at the appearance of the deal being one-sided, and are wary of the risk of Trump walking away even if Xi were to travel to the U.S.
White House communications staff didn’t immediately respond to an early morning request for comment. The State Council in Beijing also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump himself has shifted tone in recent days, walking back from a more urgent approach to getting a deal signed as early as March. He acknowledged concerns in Beijing about the possibility of him walking away from a trade deal, offering to push back a summit with Xi until a final deal is reached.
“We could do it either way,” Trump told reporters Wednesday at the White House. “We can have the deal completed and come and sign or we can get the deal almost completed and negotiate some of the final points. I would prefer that. But it doesn’t matter that much.”