President Trump is meeting with the Chinese vice premier at the White House Friday afternoon, as the clock runs out on the Trump administration’s self-imposed March 1 deadline for reaching an agreement in trade talks with China.
Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, said, “President Xi and I will work out the final points” in the near future. The president also said it was a “great honor” to meet with the Chinese premier and they are “getting along very well.”
The president’s top advisers including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer have insisted March 1 is a firm deadline, but the president has suggested there. Mr. Trump has said that if the U.S. and China can’t reach an agreement, he will boost tariffs to 25 percent.
Mr. Trump had a lively exchange with Lighthizer Friday over what they would call a trade agreement, with Lighthizer correcting the president on his understanding of a trade agreement.
“I don’t like MOUS because they don’t mean anything,” Mr. Trump said. “To me I don’t mean anything. I think you’re better off going into a document. I was never a fan of an MOU.”
Lighthizer interjected: “An MOU is a contact. It’s the way trade agreements are generally used. People refer to it like it’s a term sheet it’s not a term sheet it’s an actual contract between the two parties. A memorandum of understanding is a binding agreement between the two parties and that’s what we’re talking about. It’s detailed, covers everything in great detail. It’s just called a memorandum of understanding it’s a legal term it’s a contract.”
The president leaves for Vietnam for his summit with North Korean leader, leaving little time left for negotiating with China. A Chinese delegation , and Mr. Trump met with the Chinese vice premier earlier this month.
The meeting is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the White House.