Global equities mostly retreated Tuesday after US President Donald Trump warned there was no deadline for doing a trade deal with China.

The announcement added to trade uncertainty already stoked by Washington's re-imposition of metal tariffs on Argentina and Brazil and threats of steep levies for French merchandise.

In Britain for a NATO summit, Trump warned that efforts to resolve a trade dispute could wait until after next November's US elections.

"I have no deadline," Trump told reporters upon his arrival. "In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal."

Trump's trade war with China and on-again off-again attempts to reach a deal have destabilized markets and stoked geopolitical tensions.

"The chances of a deal by December 15 just took another turn lower," said Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson.

"After weeks of making generally positive noises on a deal being very close, there is a real sense now that a deal is not so very near at all and markets need to reprice," Wilson added.

As recently as last week Trump boasted that he was in the "final throes" of negotiating "one of the most important deals in trade ever."

But Washington has since courted Chinese anger by expressing support for Hong Kong protesters.

Optimism that Beijing and Washington will eventually hammer out a partial agreement as part of a wider deal had supported equities for weeks, helping Wall Street to set numerous records.

But investor sentiment was dealt a blow on Monday when Trump said he would reinstate tariffs on steel and aluminum from Argentina and Brazil whom he accused of manipulating their currencies and hurting US farmers.

Later, officials warned they would also hit France with up to 100 percent levies on $2.4 billion in goods, saying a French digital tax was discriminatory against US tech firms such as Google, Apple and Amazon.

Sparkling wine, yogurt and Roquefort cheese could be affected as soon as next month, while US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer warned his office was also considering similar moves against Austria, Italy and Turkey.

On Tuesday, France vowed a "strong" response to any tariffs.

Roquefort cheese and sparkling wine are among the French goods that could be hit with huge tariffs by the US in retaliation for a digital tax Roquefort cheese and sparkling wine are among the French goods that could be hit with huge tariffs by the US in retaliation for a digital tax Photo: AFP / BERTRAND GUAY

Oil prices were mixed ahead of a key meeting of OPEC and other major producers, which is expected to see them maintain output cuts into June, with speculation they could go on until the end of 2020.

New York - Dow: DOWN 1.0 percent at 27,502.81 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,093.20 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.6 percent at 8,520.64 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 1.8 percent at 7,158.76 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.2 percent at 12,989.29 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.0 percent at 5,727.22 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.4 percent at 3,610.99 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 23,379.81 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 26,391.30 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 2,884.70 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1080 from $1.1079 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2997 from $1.2939

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.25 pence from 85.63

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.63 from 108.98 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.2 percent at $60.82 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.3 percent at $56.10 per barrel