Trump says trade deal with China could happen sooner than people think

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday a deal to end a nearly 15-month trade war with China could happen sooner than people think and that the Chinese were making big agricultural purchases from the United States, including of beef and pork.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“They want to make a deal very badly... It could happen sooner than you think,” Trump told reporters in New York.

Trump said later after signing a limited trade deal with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe there was a good chance of reaching an agreement with China.

He said China was trying to be nice to him and added to reporters: “I was nice to them.”

“We’re having some very good conversations,” Trump told a later news conference.

“You know why they want to make a deal? Because they’re losing their jobs, because their supply chain is going to hell and companies are moving out of China and they’re moving to lots of other places, including the United States.”

In the meantime, Trump said, the United States was taking in “billions and billions of dollars in tariffs.”

“China is starting to buy our agricultural product again,” Trump added. “They’re starting to go with the beef and all of the different things, pork, very big on pork.”

“You know they want to make a deal and they should want to make a deal. The question is, do we want to make a deal?”

Trump spoke a day after delivering a stinging rebuke to China’s trade practices at the United Nations General Assembly, saying he would not accept a “bad deal” in U.S.-China trade negotiations.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said there was communication between the two sides and the Chinese would be in the United States for talks in early October.

“At this stage what you want to do is have confidence building and show goodwill, and I think ... we’re doing that,” he told reporters. “The president wants a deal if he can get a good deal. If he doesn’t ... we have a tariff policy in place.”

China’s top diplomat hit back at U.S. criticism of its trade and development model in a speech on Tuesday after Trump spoke at the United Nations. Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister and state councilor, said Beijing would not bow to threats, including on trade, though he said he hoped the high-level trade talks next month would produce positive results.

Wang also dismissed the concerns of those in the United States who worry that China will unseat the United States from its leading role in the world, calling it a strategic misjudgment. Asked about this remark, Trump said: “Maybe they just say that.”

The early October meetings are to include the top trade negotiators from both sides: Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. They are expected to determine whether the world’s two largest economies are starting to chart a path out of their trade war or headed for new and higher tariffs on each others’ goods.

Trump has sought to pressure China to agree to reduce trade barriers through a policy of increasing tariffs on Chinese products. On Tuesday, he accused China of the theft of trade secrets “on a grand scale” and said it was taking advantage of World Trade Organization rules.

Although Trump held out hope in his U.N. speech that the United States and China could still reach an agreement, he made clear he wanted a deal that would rebalance the relationship between the two economic superpowers.

Wang said the trade war was inflicting unnecessary damage on both countries, raising costs for American firms, pushing up consumer prices and dampening U.S. growth potential.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols, David Brunnstrom and David Lawder; Editing by Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker