Mr. Trump’s remarks probably indicated an effort to gain leverage during the last two weeks before a Dec. 15 deadline for new tariffs on consumer goods to take effect, rather than signaling a fundamental breakdown in talks, said U.S. officials and close allies of Mr. Trump.
The U.S. side points to the recent involvement of White House adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, as evidence that the talks are nearing conclusion. Mr. Kushner acts as a kind of interpreter of what Mr. Trump would find acceptable in a deal and has worked well with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Mr. Trump’s lead negotiator, and Chinese Ambassador Cui Tianka.
“Ultimately, the president is rewarded in the ballot box by getting a deal done,” said Jason Miller, Mr. Trump’s former communications director. “He’s not rewarded in the ballot box by having a trade fight with China.” But Mr. Trump needs to make sure that the Chinese come through with a good offer before he approves a deal, Mr. Miller said.
The Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Chinese officials have said the trade negotiations are still on track. Beijing has strong incentives to move ahead with the trade deal, which could help alleviate pressure on the country’s weakening economy.