White House: Trump weighing possibilities on China trade deadline

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and a member of the U.S. trade delegation to China arrives to a hotel in Beijing, China February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday told Fox News that President Trump is weighing different possibilities on how to treat the looming March 1 deadline to reach a trade deal with China, adding that the final agreement depends on Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting in person.

The United States would escalate tariffs on Chinese goods if the deadline is missed, and likely prompt the Asian nation to retaliate. But in recent days, Trump has signaled flexibility on that date as a U.S. delegation works this week with Beijing to come to an agreement, saying on Tuesday he might let it “slide” a little.

U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports from China are scheduled to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if the two sides cannot reach a deal by a March 1 deadline, increasing pain and costs in sectors from consumer electronics to agriculture.

Sanders also said that reaching an agreement to end the trade war between the two economic superpowers would take an in-person meeting with Trump and Xi, adding that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, would make a good venue for such a talk.

Earlier on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters in Beijing that talks were going well. He arrived in the Chinese capital on Tuesday along with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama