Trump open to extending China trade deadline

Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai China

Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai China

A new round of trade talks between the US and China begins in Beijing this week, with both sides hoping to reach a trade deal by the end of this month.

US officials have said March 1st is a hard deadline, but President Trump has suggested a possible extension if progress was being made.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will lead the US delegation for the third round of talks on Thursday and Friday in Beijing. "I could see myself letting that slide for a little while", Trump said at the White House.

US and Chinese officials expressed hopes that a new round of talks would bring them closer to easing their seven-month trade war, but a US Navy mission through the disputed South China Sea cast a shadow over the negotiations in Beijing, Reuters reports.

But at the same time, Trump says he's not inclined to do that. However, amid pressure from the business community for the two sides to resolve the dispute, CNBC cited a senior administration official saying the March 1 deadline could be pushed back.

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Talks kicked off in Beijing with discussions among deputy-level officials on Monday before minister-level meetings later in the week.

If the two sides can not reach a deal by March 1, USA tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent. China will likely respond by raising tariffs on $60 billion worth of USA goods that it announced a year ago in retaliation.

While those purchases will provide relief to USA farmers, there has been no breakthrough on the structural issues separating the two nations, such as industrial policy, government subsidies, protection of intellectual property or forced transfers of technology.

But US stock markets were less enthusiastic about prospects for a deal, with any optimism overshadowed by concerns about another government shutdown and a diminished 2019 US corporate earnings outlook.

"The key is whether the USA and China can find common ground", said He Weiwen, a former commerce ministry official and now a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, an independent research group.

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