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Lighthizer, Mnuchin heading to Beijing next week for further trade negotiations

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is dispatching U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Beijing early next week to continue trade talks as a March 1 deadline to reach an accord nears, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

The senior official also said President Donald Trump hasn’t yet committed to meeting Xi Jinping — a shift from Trump’s comments last week. “I’ll be meeting with President Xi, maybe once and maybe twice,” the president said during an Oval Office meeting Thursday with China’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He.

A meeting between the two presidents would signal that the talks were nearly finished, according to trade experts, with the two presidents ready to make the final compromises ready for a deal.

The U.S. official emphasized that the lack of commitment to a Trump-Xi meeting wasn’t a sign negotiations had stalled, but simply reflected how much needed to be accomplished before the two sides could make a deal. “The vibe was good,” the official said of last week’s talks. In talks between the two nations last week in Washington, the official said, the Chinese agreed to broaden the areas for discussion to include items China had previously declared off-limits because of national-security reasons.