Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria
Photo: Reuters / Carlos Barria

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that his administration is “doing very well with China talks,” after his ex-economic advisor said in an interview that his former boss was “desperate” to resolve the trade dispute.

But despite more confirmation that a trade agreement is likely coming soon, companies that are waiting until the ink dries before making investment decisions will have to wait until at least next month, according to new reporting.

While administration officials had previously expressed hope that Trump could host Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort as soon as this month, Bloomberg reported Thursday that the face-to-face meeting will not come until April.

Momentum for a signing ceremony at the US President’s Florida residence, where the two leaders first met in 2017, appeared to lose steam following Trump’s surprise snubbing of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Vietnam. A “joint agreement signing ceremony” had been scheduled for that summit, but Trump ultimately decided to cut the visit short without issuing a joint statement.

China is now said to be pushing for a full state visit to the US by Xi, in contrast to a low-key trip just to consummate a deal.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Wednesday, Trump insisted that he was “in no rush” to reach a deal, and again chimed in on the progress of talks in comments on Thursday.

“We’re doing very well with China talks,” Trump told reporters while meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office. “We’re getting what we have to get, and I think we’re getting it relatively quickly.”

“As to whether or not we’ll strike a final deal, that I would never want to say,” Trump said on Thursday. “If it’s not a deal that’s a great deal for us, we’re not going to make it.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, meanwhile, told lawmakers much of the same, also echoing comments from his fellow trade negotiator, US trade chief Robert Lighthizer, earlier in the week.

Any agreement “needs to be right,” Mnuchin stressed. “That’s more important than the exact timing.”

That is little consolation to businesses that have to make investment decisions that will be affected by the outcome, an issue raised by lawmakers who questioned Lighthizer earlier in the week.

Lighthizer warned Senators that there are still “major, major” issues to be resolved and he “can’t predict success at this point.” He added that the text of a potential agreement will likely be more than 100 pages long and will require at least several more weeks to finalize.

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