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Donald Trump says he might let March 1 deadline for new China tariffs 'slide' if trade war deal is near

US President Donald Trump will consider pushing back a March 1 deadline for trade negotiations with China if both sides are close to making a deal, he told reporters on Tuesday.

"But generally speaking, I'm not inclined to do that," he added.

A move in the deadline would likely rattle hardliners within the administration. Speaking in December in the wake of Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting at the G20, US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer said that March 1 was a "hard deadline".

A deputy-level delegation, led by deputy USTR Jeffrey Gerrish, has been conducting preparatory talks in the Chinese capital since Monday.

"We have a big team over in China right now, and they're working very hard, dealing with the Chinese", said Trump, adding his frequently repeated assertion that China "wants to make a deal very badly".

US trade tactics and Huawei case show 'West wants repeat of opium wars'

Trump has said on several occasions that any final deal will be brokered between himself and Xi in person, with White House adviser Kellyanne Conway telling Fox News on Monday that the US president wanted to meet his Chinese counterpart "very soon".

But Trump, who said last week that it was unlikely he would meet Xi before the March 1 deadline, appeared to pour more cold water on the prospect of an imminent face-to-face on Tuesday when he said there was no plan "as of this moment" to meet with Xi at the end of March.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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