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Trump won't sign China trade pact unless it's 'great'

The economic superpowers have been locked in a trade battle since last summer, striking out with steep tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade.

FILE: US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC on 11 February 2019. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said on Friday he will not agree to a pact with China to resolve the months-long trade war unless it is a "very good deal."

The economic superpowers have been locked in a trade battle since last summer, striking out with steep tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, which is beginning to sap economic growth and business confidence.

"I am confident but... if this isn't a great deal, I won't make a deal," Trump told reporters as he departed the White House to visit tornado-damaged Alabama.

But he added, "We will do very well either way, with or without a deal."

US and Chinese officials have said they are making progress toward a resolution of the dispute but a US diplomat in Beijing said on Friday that an agreement was not imminent.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow acknowledged Trump's planned meeting at his Florida resort with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which officials said was expected to be held late this month to seal an agreement, could slip into April.

Kudlow told CNBC that talks have "advanced enormously," echoing comments from a Chinese diplomat in Beijing earlier on Friday.

But "you saw them walk away from North Korea and just saying that... it could apply to trade," he said, referring to Trump's recent summit in Hanoi with the
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which ended early and without an agreement.

"I don't want to hang a timetable on this," Kudlow said. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer "is doing the best he can."

"There may be a meeting in Florida, Mar-a-Lago between the two leaders, maybe late this month or early next month."

He credited Trump's tough negotiating strategy and "aggressive tariffs" for bringing Beijing to the negotiating table.

"We have them over a barrel," he said.

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