Donald Trump appeared to call into question the terms of a trade deal with China on Wednesday, hinting that it may be too difficult to conclude in its current form.
In an early morning tweet, the US president wrote that while negotiations were “moving along nicely . . . in the end we will probably have to use a different structure [for the deal] in that this will be too hard to get done and verify results after completion”.
Washington and Beijing have been edging closer to a deal, with the Trump administration announcing on Sunday that it was putting on hold threatened tariffs on up to $150bn in Chinese imports* and China pledging to increase imports of US agricultural goods.
The White House is also in the process of negotiating a deal to lift sanctions against ZTE, the Shenzhen-based group accused of selling sensitive technologies to Iran and North Korea, which the Chinese president Xi Jinping has made a condition of a broader trade agreement.
The softening of the administration’s stance on ZTE has invoked the ire of Congressional Republicans, led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who on Wednesday said on Twitter he had “urged [Mr Trump] to follow his initial instincts on China and listen to those in his administration who understand that a short term trade deal that sounds good but poses long term danger is a #Bad Deal”.
Mr Rubio added: “I don’t understand how they can push for a deal that lets [ZTE] keep operating in the US”.
On Tuesday, the US president accused China of being behind a renewed bout of acrimony towards Washington from Pyongyang that could lead to the delay or cancellation of a much-heralded summit on June 12 between the Mr Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
*This post has been updated to correct details of the Trump administration’s announcement.
Get alerts on US-China trade dispute when a new story is published