President Xi Unexpectedly Joins Trade Talks With Mnuchin, Lighthizer

Two weeks after President Trump sent a spasm of enthusiasm through US markets by meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Washington during the last round of trade negotiations, President Xi is reportedly set to return the favor this week by meeting with a delegation led by Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to South China Morning Post.

One unnamed source who spoke with the SCMP said the meeting with Xi will happen Friday, another source said it would happen at a "Chinese cuisine" restaurant somewhere in Beijing, though they added that the exact day had not yet been set. Talks involving Mnuchin and Lighthizer are expected to begin Thursday.


As the SCMP pointed out, a meeting with Xi would be a "sign of goodwill" intended to indicate that China is serious about making a deal. At this point, it's likely the talks will need to be extended past the US's "hard" March 1 deadline, though President Trump has said he'd rather not push back the deadline. Administration officials have told reporters that the administration is hoping to delay the talks while signaling to China that these deadlines can't keep being pushed back indefinitely.

Trump said Tuesday that he could see himself "letting that slide for a little while...but generally speaking, I'm not inclined to do that." Mnuchin said he was looking for “productive meetings” with Chinese officials.


Wall Street analysts have said the best outcome for markets, at this point, would be an extension, because it would be difficult for the world’s two biggest economies to resolve their trade disputes by the deadline, given the challenge of US demands for structural reform in China to address issues of intellectual property protection, forced technology transfers and state subsidies.