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Trade war

Trump boasts of 'big progress' ahead of crucial China talks

President meets with trade team as Beijing sends officials to Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump departs from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on his way to Mar-a-Lago in Florida on Feb. 15.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that meetings with his trade team continued toward reaching a deal with China, the day after he received an update from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on the recent negotiations in Beijing.

The consultations came ahead of a crucial week of trade talks, with a Chinese delegation expected to arrive in Washington once more.

"Important meetings and calls on China Trade Deal, and more, today with my staff. Big progress being made on soooo many different fronts!" Trump wrote in the Sunday morning tweet. "Our Country has such fantastic potential for future growth and greatness on an even higher level!"

Michael Pillsbury, a leading adviser to Trump on China issues, said on Fox News that "this coming week's going to be awfully important, when the Chinese come here at the working level."

"We're going to try to find out, I think, what will be in this memorandum of understanding," he said: whether it will "have enforcement and time limits and ... be tough" or just "be a cosmetic agreement."

The memorandum of understanding is the document the two sides agreed to formulate at the just-concluded talks in Beijing. It is expected to form the outline of a trade deal that will be finalized through a yet-to-be-scheduled summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

On Saturday, Trump received a readout of the Beijing talks in person from Lighthizer at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The meeting was attended by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, while aides including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic director Larry Kudlow took part by phone.

The U.S. and China held a total five days of talks in Beijing last week, starting at the working level before upgrading to the cabinet level in the final two days.

Punitive American duties on $200 billion of Chinese imports are set to rise to 25% from 10% if no deal is reached by March 1. Washington seeks concrete assurances that Beijing will address such American concerns as forced technology transfers to Chinese companies and state subsidies that distort market mechanisms.

Pillsbury told Fox that he thinks Trump will raise tariffs soon. "He's essentially giving the Chinese one last chance next week, and then perhaps ... a short extension," he said.

"Notice how the president always refers to the tariffs as bringing in revenue, billions of dollars of revenue to us," Pillsbury said. "So he is not somebody who's anti-tariff."

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