WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said Sunday that he will delay Saturday's scheduled increase in tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports in order to give negotiators more time to reach a comprehensive trade deal with Beijing.
The announcement, which the president had hinted at in recent days, came in a pair of tweets just after 4:30 p.m. CST.
"I am pleased to report that the U.S. has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues. As a result of these very ... productive talks, I will be delaying the U.S. increase in tariffs," the president wrote.
The administration released no details. But, assuming the talks continue to make headway, the president has said he plans to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Florida estate, to finalize terms of the agreement.
That meeting is expected late next month.
The announcement came after a week of talks between U.S. and Chinese officials that made progress sufficient enough for the Chinese delegation to extend through the weekend its Washington visit, which was scheduled to end Friday.
During an Oval Office meeting in front of reporters Friday, the president publicly disagreed with his chief trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, over what type of agreement was being negotiated. Lighthizer, a veteran trade lawyer with decades of experience, was rebuked by Trump for calling it a "memorandum of understanding," a term the president said didn't "mean very much."
The world's two biggest economies have been locked in a conflict over U.S. allegations that China steals technology and forces foreign companies to hand over trade secrets in an aggressive push to challenge American technological dominance.
The president imposed tariffs on more than $250 billion in Chinese goods and threatened to do so on everything China sells into the American market -- a move that would have significantly disrupted commerce between the two countries.
Trump's announcement Sunday, while welcomed by businesses that feared the automatic tariff escalation planned for next weekend, will also stoke trade hard-liners' concerns that the president is in too much of a rush to make a deal with Beijing.
Trump insists that he is intent on securing far-reaching structural changes in China's state-led economic system, something few analysts believe is possible any time soon.
"There remains a yawning gap between the two sides on core structural issues. This means that any deal is likely to be a relatively narrow and temporary one that obviates a further escalation of trade tensions but leaves existing tariffs in place," said Cornell University economist Eswar Prasad, former head of the International Monetary Fund's China unit.
China has responded to U.S. tariffs by slapping retaliatory import taxes on billions of dollars in American goods. The conflict has shaken financial markets and clouded the outlook for the global economy, putting pressure on Trump and Xi to reach a deal.
"Trump clearly wants a deal and so do the Chinese, which certainly raises the probability that the two sides will come to some sort of negotiated agreement, even if it is a partial one, in the coming weeks," Prasad said.
Information for this article was contributed by Paul Wiseman and Catherine Lucey of The Associated Press.
A Section on 02/25/2019