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Trade war

Trump weighs 60-day extension as high-level US-China talks open

Negotiators grapple with structural issues and look to arrange crucial summit

From left, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talk before the opening session of trade negotiations at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Feb. 14.   © Reuters

BEIJING -- U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly considering pushing back the March 1 deadline for a trade agreement with China as senior officials kicked off their latest round of bilateral trade negotiations here on Thursday.

The negotiators, which include Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the U.S. side, discussed structural issues such as forced technology transfers to Chinese companies and subsidies to state-owned enterprises. But the two sides remain sharply at odds, and Bloomberg reported late Wednesday that Trump is considering a 60-day extension to the deadline.

"I think we all hope that a deal could be reached," Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters. But China remains reluctant to give big concessions. 

The contentious issues appear unlikely to be resolved before March 1, at which time the U.S. plans to raise tariffs on Chinese goods if no agreement is reached. Both sides envision resolving the thorniest problems at a summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The negotiators are believed to be also discussing when and where to hold the summit. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida would be a "great venue," while the Chinese side has reportedly proposed talks in the tropical island province of Hainan.

The current round of talks, which also includes Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, is slated to run through Friday. The South China Morning Post has reported that Xi plans to meet with the American delegation.

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