Schedule for Mar-a-Lago talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping remains unclear. Sources in Beijing say talk of leaders’ meeting has been over-hyped, reported the South China Morning Post with reference to the Reuters.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he was in no rush to complete a trade deal with China and insisted that any accord with Beijing must include protection for intellectual property, a major sticking point between the two sides during months of negotiations.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were expected to hold a summit at the US president’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida later this month, but no date has been set for a meeting and no in-person talks between their trade teams have taken place in more than two weeks.
The US president said he thought there was a good chance a deal would be made, in part because China wanted one after suffering tariffs on its goods.
But he acknowledged Xi may be cooling on the idea of a summit without an agreement in hand after seeing Trump end a meeting in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un without a peace deal.
“I think President Xi saw that I’m somebody that believes in walking when the deal is not done, and you know there’s always a chance it could happen, and he probably wouldn’t want that,” Trump said.
China has not made any public comment on a Xi meeting with Trump in Florida or elsewhere.
The US president, who likes to embellish his deal-making abilities, said an agreement to end a months-long trade war could be finished ahead of a presidential meeting or completed in-person with his counterpart.
“We could do it either way,” Trump said. “We could have the deal completed and come and sign, or we could get the deal almost completed and negotiate some of the final points. I would prefer that.”
Trump decided last month not to increase tariffs on Chinese goods at the beginning of March as scheduled, an acknowledgement of the success of negotiations so far.
Hurdles remained, and intellectual property was one. Washington accused Beijing of forcing US companies to share their intellectual property and transfer their technology to local partners to do business in China. Beijing denied it engaged in such practices.
Asked on Wednesday if intellectual property had to be included in a trade deal, Trump said: “Yes, it does.” He indicated that from his perspective, a meeting with Xi was still likely.
“I think things are going along very well – we’ll just see what the date is,” Trump said at the White House. “I’m in no rush. I want the deal to be right … I am not in a rush whatsoever. It’s got to be the right deal. It’s got to be a good deal for us and if it’s not, we’re not going to make that deal.”
China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that Xi had told Trump that he was willing to “maintain contacts” with the US president.
Over the weekend, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, who has been heavily involved in the trade talks with the US, did not answer questions from reporters on whether Xi would go to Mar-a-Lago.
Two Beijing-based diplomatic sources said Xi would not be going to Mar-a-Lago, at least in the near term.
One said there had been no formal approach from the US to China about such a trip, while the second said the problem was that China had realised a trade agreement was not going to be as easy to reach as they had first thought.
“This is media hype,” the first source said of reports Xi and Trump could meet this month in Florida.
Although Trump said he was not in a hurry, a trade deal this spring would give him a win to cite as an economic accomplishment as he prepares his 2020 re-election campaign. The trade war has hurt the global economy and hung over stock markets, which would be likely to benefit from an end to the tensions.
In addition to smoothing over sticking points on content, the US is eager to include a strong enforcement mechanism in a deal to ensure that Beijing can be held accountable if it breaks any of its terms.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has spearheaded the talks from the American side, said on Tuesday that US officials hoped they were in the final weeks of their talks with China but that major issues remained to be resolved.