Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with President Donald Trump at the start of a summit in April. Photo: Reuters, Carlos Barria
Photo: Reuters / Carlos Barria

With just one month remaining before a deadline to reach a trade deal with China, US President Donald Trump injected a healthy dose of optimism into the conversation on Thursday.

“Meetings are going well with good intent and spirit on both sides,” Trump said on Twitter Thursday morning. “China does not want an increase in Tariffs and feels they will do much better if they make a deal. They are correct,” he said, adding: “I will be meeting with their top leaders and representatives today.”

Despite intermittent reports that both sides are still far away from resolving key issues, the US president has consistently expressed a positive view of the trade talks since he hammered out a tentative tariff ceasefire with Chinese President Xi Jinping on December 1.

Trump stressed that any deal will have to wait until he meets Xi again, which he suggested will happen in the “near future.”

Several hours after his initial tweets on the talks, he chimed in again, suggesting that a further opening of Chinese markets to US firms will be part of any deal that emerges.

While referencing the need for greater access for US financial services, something which China has repeatedly offered in the past, Trump added the Chinese market needs to be opened further for “Manufacturing, Farmers and other U.S. businesses and industries.”

Early indications, based on comments from officials after the first round of trade negotiations held in Beijing, suggest that an agreement will center on increased Chinese purchases of US commodities in exchange for reducing tariffs that have already been imposed on Chinese goods.

US officials set a March 1 date to increase the tariff rate on US$200 billion worth of Chinese products from 10% to 25%, unless an agreement is reached before then.

Trade talks being held in Washington this week are scheduled to conclude on Thursday, with observers expecting at least one more round of high-level meetings to come before March, which would presumably include a meeting between Trump and Xi.

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