Photo: AFP / Jim Watson

As trade delegations prepare for day three of negotiations in Beijing, US President Donald Trump fueled cautious optimism that a deal to avert further tariffs is likely.

Much of the skepticism that an agreement can be hammered out has centered around the limited time left before a March 1 deadline, after which the Trump administration has said it will raise tariffs if no deal has been reached.

But speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Trump said that the deadline is flexible.

“If we’re close to a deal where we think we can make a real deal and it’s going to get done, I can see myself letting it slide for a while. But generally speaking, I’m not inclined to do that,” he said during a televised press briefing at a cabinet meeting.

“China wants to make a deal very badly. I want it to be a real deal not just a deal that makes – you know, cosmetically, looks good for a year. We have a chance to really make a deal. A real deal with China,” Trump said.

Any deal, he stressed, will have to wait for a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

“At some point I expect to meet with President Xi who I have a lot of respect for and like a lot and make the parts of the deal that the group is unable to make. That’s the way deals happen.”

As for the venue for the next Trump-Xi summit, speculation is now growing that it could be held at the US President’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Axios reported that two administration officials said the seaside club was the “likely” location for the next summit, following the news that the presidents would not meet in Vietnam.

Trump is flying to Southeast Asia to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi at the end of the month, which had been seen as an opportunity for him to make time for Xi.

The first meeting between Trump and Xi took place at Mar-a-Lago in the summer of 2017, a year before the US administration began slapping tariffs on Chinese goods.

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