A meeting between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping to sign an agreement to end the ongoing  trade war will not occur this month and is more likely to happen in April at the earliest, Bloomberg reported.

Despite claims of progress in talks by both sides, a hoped-for summit at Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago resort will now take place at the end of April, if it happens at all.  President Trump and his aides have for weeks been pushing for Xi to agree to a meeting at Mar-a-Lago to finalize a deal. However, it has been reported that China is pressing for a formal state visit rather than a lower-key appearance just to sign a trade deal.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this week pointed to “major issues” still unresolved in the talks, with few signs of a breakthrough on the most difficult subjects including treatment of intellectual property.

Chinese officials have long been wary of putting Xi in a position where he might be embarrassed by an unpredictable President Trump or forced into last-minute concessions.  “This is a real conundrum for Xi,” said Eswar Prasad, an expert on the Chinese economy at Cornell University, who regularly meets with senior officials in Beijing.  “The concern about being snookered by President Trump at the negotiating table is a real risk for Xi,” Prasad said.

President Trump’s decision last month to walk away from his Hanoi summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un without a deal reinforced China’s concerns about the unpredictability of President Trump.

Officials in Beijing insist they have played by international rules and just want to be sure President Trump will not again kill an agreement at the last minute.  President Trump has rejected at least two deals brought to him since he first hosted Xi at Mar-a-Largo in April 2017.

President Trump’s aides have built a possible deal on a foundation of distrust.  In their view, a China that has for decades lied and cheated its way to economic success cannot be trusted to live up to any commitments unless a deal has teeth.  “That’s the fundamental question,” USTR Lighthizer said.  “What the president wants is an agreement that number one is enforceable.”

Trump himself has shifted tone in recent days, walking back from a more urgent approach to getting a deal signed as early as March. He acknowledged concerns in Beijing about the possibility of him walking away from a trade deal, offering to push back a summit with Xi until a final deal is reached.

“We could do it either way,” Trump told reporters Wednesday at the White House. “We can have the deal completed and come and sign or we can get the deal almost completed and negotiate some of the final points. I would prefer that. But it doesn’t matter that much,” the President said.


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