The president is set to sign two executive orders Friday that are poised to renew focus on China's trade relationship with the U.S. The White House said these orders aim to defeat trade abuses and non-reciprocal practices to lessen the trade deficit.
Trump tweeted Thursday night that his upcoming meeting with Xi will be a "very difficult one," citing the massive trade deficit as a factor. In 2016, China's goods trade deficit with the U.S. stood at $347 billion, by far the largest figure.
But during a Thursday briefing with reporters, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, head of the National Trade Council, resisted attempts to characterize the impending orders as "putting China on notice."
"Nothing we're saying tonight is about China," Navarro told reporters, repeatedly emphasizing that the orders were meant to address trade abuses.
Spicer echoed those remarks, saying, "I think he wants to have a very good, respectful and healthy relationship, but he also wants to make sure that he tackles the challenges and problems that are facing American workers and manufacturers and get to them."
— CNBC's Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.