With a March 1 deadline fast approaching, USA and Chinese officials resume negotiations next week to prevent escalation of a trade dispute that has major implications for the global economy.
As a result, some aides privately acknowledge the most likely scenario is for the March 1 deadline to be extended, and for tariffs on some $200 billion in Chinese imports not to be raised to 25 percent as Trump has threatened. He did not elaborate.
Mnuchin appeared at a Beijing hotel a couple of days ahead of scheduled high-level meetings with Chinese officials in the capital, with a March 1 deadline looming to strike an accord. The main delegation also includes David Malpass, whom President Donald Trump has nominated to be president of the World Bank and who has worked to limit the bank's assistance to Beijing.
USA officials have said March 1st is a hard deadline, but President Trump has suggested a possible extension if progress was being made.
Trump said talks in Beijing are "going well", but acknowledged bilateral talks between him and Xi are unlikely to come to pass before the current March 2 deadline.
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But at the same time, Trump says he's not inclined to do that.
Washington is expected to keep pressing Beijing on long-standing demands that it make sweeping structural reforms to protect American companies' intellectual property, end policies aimed at forcing the transfer of technology to Chinese companies, and curb industrial subsidies. But the two sides are only just starting the work of drafting a common document and are still tussling over how a deal may be enforced, which USA officials have repeatedly called a crucial element.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cautioned allies on Monday against deploying equipment from Chinese telecoms giant Huawei on their soil, saying it would make it more hard for Washington to "partner alongside them".
But US stock markets were less enthusiastic about prospects for a deal, with any optimism overshadowed by concerns about another government shutdown and a diminished 2019 US corporate earnings outlook.