President Donald Trump declared Monday he would participate in a “signing summit” with Chinese leader Xi Jinping as the world’s two largest economies edged closer to a trade deal.
It was yet another optimistic signal by the American President that a long-standing trade impasse that has resulted in a series of tit-for-tat tariffs may finally be nearing a close as negotiators inched closer to a 90-day deadline of March 1.
“I told you last night – there was a lovely dinner – but I told you how well we did with our trade talks in China and it looks like they’ll be coming back quickly again, and we’re going to have another summit, we’re going to have a signing summit, which is even better, so hopefully we can get that completed, but we’re getting very, very close,” Trump told the nation’s governors at the White House.
In a tweet Sunday evening, Trump wrote he would delay an increase in tariffs on Chinese goods set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, citing “substantial progress” on top priority issues for the administration tied to intellectual property and technology transfers after a weekend of talks.
The US President also floated the prospect of a summit “to conclude an agreement” with China’s Xi should progress continue.
He didn’t specify how long the extension of a trade truce would be or when a summit might be scheduled. During a meeting with Chinese Vice Premiere Liu He on Friday in the Oval Office, suggested it would take place sometime in March at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The Trump administration had been planning to escalate tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods from 10% to 25% this weekend if they were unable to broker a deal.
“China is paying us right now billions and billions of tariffs a month, I love it personally, I love it, but it’s hurting them,” Trump said and then recounted his fentanyl deal with Xi. Fentanyl is a substance that has been tied to an epidemic of overdose deaths in the United States, which has been a top priority issue for the Trump administration.
Over the weekend, Chinese trade negotiators echoed Trump’s remarks, saying the countries’ teams had “achieved substantial progress on specific issues,” according to a statement released to Xinhua, China’s state news agency.
The two countries have been making progress nailing down text in the form of Memoranda of Understanding in six areas: non-tariff barriers, forced technology transfers, intellectual property, cyber theft, agriculture and currency, according to public statements from both countries.
Trump praised on Sunday evening at this year’s Governors’ Ball, his top trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for the progress achieved after negotiations last week in Washington were extended for two-and-half more days.
His remarks followed a moment of tension between Trump and Lighthizer over the use of the term “memorandum of understanding” to signify a trade agreement between the United States and China.
“I don’t like MOUs because they don’t mean anything … I think you’re better off just going into a document,” Trump said on Friday to reporters. “I was never a fan of an MOU.”
Lighthizer appeared to steer Trump away from his understanding of the use of term, describing it as a “contract,” a legal term that has been historically used to refer to trade agreements.
But Trump still wasn’t pleased, disagreeing with his US trade representative in front of reporters. “To me, the final contract is really the thing, Bob. And I think you mean that too – is really the thing that means something.”
To which, Lighthizer acquiesced, saying he would use the term “trade agreement” instead.
“I like that much better,” Trump replied.
CNN’s Maegan Vazquez and Eric Cheung contributed to this report.