China and US discussing Trump-Xi trade meeting, but optics among sticking points

  • The meeting would take place after a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and just before the deadline for a U.S.-China trade deal.
  • However, the U.S. is concerned about the optics of a deal being announced on Chinese soil. Allies like Japan and South Korea are also worried about back-to-back meetings with nondemocratic leaders.

U.S. and Chinese officials are discussing a potential meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping in late February, two sources told CNBC.

The meeting would take place after a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and just before the March 2 deadline for a U.S.-China trade deal. However, the U.S. is concerned about the optics of a deal being announced on Chinese soil. The U.S. also wants prior commitments from China. Allies like Japan and South Korea are also worried about back-to-back meetings with nondemocratic leaders and would want to be briefed afterward.

(R-L) Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other Trump Administration officials sit down with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (L), Central Bank Governor Yi Gang (2nd L) and other Chinese vice ministers and senior officials for negotiations in the Diplomatic Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 30, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
(R-L) Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other Trump Administration officials sit down with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He (L), Central Bank Governor Yi Gang (2nd L) and other Chinese vice ministers and senior officials for negotiations in the Diplomatic Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 30, 2019 in Washington, DC.

A White House official told CNBC that "thus far, we have focused on substance and not next steps."

U.S. and China officials are meeting in Washington, trying to strike the trade deal to avert a new round of tariffs. Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Thursday.

Trump tweeted on Thursday the meetings in Washington are going well, adding: "China's representatives and I are trying to do a complete deal, leaving NOTHING unresolved on the table." However, he noted that a deal will not be struck until he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The two countries slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other's goods last year, sending ripples through financial markets.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.