Asian stocks fall after Trump says no plans for Xi meeting

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Time is running out for the United States and China to reach an agreement before the deadline the Trump administration has set to more than double tariffs on US$200 billion (S$271 billion) of Chinese goods.

Asked by reporters if the meeting with Xi would take place, Trump said: "Maybe". Officials have reported little progress on contentious issues but remain hopeful that a deal will be struck.

Trump has said that final resolution of the trade dispute would depend on him and Xi meeting "in the near future".

In a meeting at the White House Wednesday, Trump's trade team discussed the next steps for the trade talks, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Trump and Xi agreed to a a 90-day truce at a G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina on November 30 a year ago. But the US president said the two would "maybe" meet later.

Canada's main stock index posted a triple-digit decline in late-morning trading as the Toronto market was hit by broad-based weakness and US markets sank into the red. But the president and other senior administration officials have publicly and privately stated the negotiations are going well and that the two sides are continuing to bridge their differences at every round of talks.

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The S&P 500 Index closed down 0.93 percent in its biggest drop in two weeks. Treasury bond yields dropped as investors sought safety in sovereign U.S. debt.

Despite the optimism, the White House emphasised in a statement that a scheduled tariff increase on $200bn of Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent was a "hard deadline" if no deal was reached by March 1.

"They're hoping for more success", he said.

Early on Friday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the U.S. -Sino trade tensions could negatively impact her country's economy and hurt exporters, as China is New Zealand's top trade partner, generating NZ$16.6 billion in the 12-months prior to September 2018 (more than double the country's sales to the U.S.). He tweeted last week that he plans to meet the Xi to hammer out a deal. Trump has threatened to raise tariffs from their current 10 percent level to 25 percent at the deadline.

"Trump meeting Xi makes it more likely any deal will last". "It's encouraging that the administration is keeping soybeans in their trade conversations with China", says Davie Stephens, ASA President. The president has said repeatedly that the tariffs would go up if no deal has been reached, and that position has not changed, one source said.

Lighthizer said last week that tariffs had not been a subject of the talks.

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