Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday there are no plans yet for President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet soon in hope of finalizing a trade deal, though Mnuchin plans to travel to China’s capital next week to continue the negotiations.
The United States and China are in the midst of talks aimed at resolving a costly trade war and Trump has said a comprehensive agreement is unlikely to be inked until he meets with his Chinese counterpart.
Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are leading a team to Beijing next week to continue the talks, but nothing is yet on the books for a Trump-Xi meeting.
“I can tell you there’s nothing planned at this time for it, but the president has talked about potentially meeting with President Xi and we’ll see what progress we make next week,” Mnuchin said. “I can tell you one thing about this president. He works very hard. Wherever he is he calls me, so we’re not worried about where he is at the end of the month.”
Trump and Xi last met in December in Argentina.
Trump hiked tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods over complaints that it steals or pressures U.S. companies to hand over technology in return for market access. The United States has said it will further boost tariffs on $200 billion of those goods unless an agreement is reached by March.
Trump announced in his State of the Union address Tuesday that he’s traveling to Vietnam, which borders China, at the end of February to meet with North Korea’s leader on nuclear issues. The trip will put Trump in the region just before the critical March deadline. But according to Mnuchin, the two sides haven’t scheduled a meeting between Trump and Xi.
Instead, Mnuchin said officials were focused on the upcoming talks in Beijing and meeting the deadline.
The previous round of talks saw China’s top negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, travel to Washington D.C. Both China and the United States were upbeat after those discussions, although there were no announcements of major breakthroughs on key structural issues.
Mnuchin said Trump is involved in the negotiations “in a very detailed way” and gets weekly and sometimes daily updates from the economic team.
“He’s involved in these issues and if there are remaining issues that we can’t get closed, I think President Trump expects that he’s going to sit down with President Xi and address those issues,” Mnuchin said.
By Darlene Superville for Associated Press with additional reporting by The Diplomat.