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Trade war

Trump says March 1 trade deadline is no 'magical date'

Yuan stabilization emerges as key issue as working-level talks with China resume

U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question from reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that the March 1 deadline for trade negotiations with China "is not a magical date" and could be delayed.

American and Chinese trade negotiators kicked off a fresh round of talks here Tuesday at the working level, preparing for cabinet-level officials to meet Thursday and Friday. The focus will be structural reforms, such as in intellectual property protection, which the U.S. side has been pressing hard for in China.

"They are very complex talks. They're going very well," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "I can't tell you exactly about timing, but the date is not a magical date. A lot of things can happen." 

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that as part of the trade negotiations, the U.S. side was asking China to promise to stabilize the value of the yuan and to refrain from currency devaluation as a trade tool.

The two sides are discussing how to put that pledge in a memorandum of understanding. The memo will be the outline of the trade deal that is to be finalized in a summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish is among the American negotiators in the deputy-level talks being held Tuesday and Wednesday. The principal-level meetings that will follow are to be led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Vice Premier Liu He from the Chinese side.

A timeline for future talks, such as deadlines for negotiations and the date of a summit, is likely to be among the topics discussed, as well as the wording of the memorandum of understanding.

The U.S. and China held cabinet-level talks in Beijing through Friday. In addition to boosting China's imports, opening its market, intellectual property infringement and favorable treatment of state-owned enterprises, negotiators also discussed the creation of a framework for ensuring that Beijing keeps its promises. But the two sides remain far apart on American calls for structural changes in China.

Washington has warned that tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods will be increased to 25% from 10% if an accord cannot be signed by March 1.

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