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WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said he is open to letting a March 1 deadline to raise tariffs on Chinese products pass without penalty if the two sides are near an agreement, sending a conciliatory signal as talks to resolve a trade war between countries continue.

"If we're close to a deal where we think we can make a real deal and it's going to get done, I could see myself letting that slide for a little while," Trump said to reporters during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. "But generally speaking I'm not inclined" to delay raising tariffs, he added.

Negotiators from the world's two largest economies began their latest round of talks this week ahead of the March 1 deadline for additional U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump has threatened to more than double the rate of tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports.

Mid-level officials began discussions Monday in preparation for two days of talks starting Thursday involving U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Lighthizer and Mnuchin were seen arriving at a Beijing hotel on Tuesday.

Aides to Trump say this week's talks are important as they need to demonstrate credible progress to both the president and financial markets. U.S. officials are pressing China to stop stealing intellectual property from American companies and commit to deeper reforms to a state-driven economic model that they say hurts U.S. competitors.

One of Donald Trump's most persistent economic promises has been to rewrite the U.S. relationship with China. Yet as he approaches a potential deal, some of the very hawks who have cheered on the president's trade war already fear he may end up falling short.

With less than a month before a March 1 deadline for either a deal or an increase in U.S. tariffs, hardliners inside and outside the administration have expressed concern Trump is being outplayed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and seduced by what they see as empty promises.

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