President Trump said Thursday he has no plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a self-imposed March 1 deadline for the two countries to reach a trade agreement.
“No,” Trump said when asked by a reporter at the White House if the two leaders would meet ahead of the deadline.
Trump was also noncommittal when asked if there would be a meeting in the next month or so, saying “not yet, maybe.”
“Probably too soon. Probably too soon,” he said of a meeting in that timeframe.
The comments came after White House officials said the two sides remained far apart on key trade disputes, stoking fears about the potential for U.S.-China trade tensions to flare once again.
Stock markets plunged on the news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day down nearly 218 points and the S&P 500 Index fell 1.6 percent, its largest loss in more than a month.
The U.S. and China reached a temporary trade truce in December, with the Trump administration agreeing to hold off on raising tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese imports from 10 to 25 percent while both sides negotiated a broader agreement.
Trump has said he would need to meet with Xi to finalize any agreement. It’s not clear if the U.S. would agree to extend the deadline if a deal is not finished by March 1.
A group of senior officials from both governments met in Washington last week to discuss irritants in the trade relationship, such as alleged intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers.
Talks are expected to continue next week in China, with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin leading the American delegation.
Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Thursday that last week’s negotiations had a “good vibe to them” and officials “covered a tremendous amount of ground and all the major issues” while acknowledging any deal is far from finished.
“We’ve got a pretty sizable distance to go here,” he said on Fox Business Network.