© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund in Shanghai

By Jeff Mason

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that 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.

“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 trade discussions with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe there was a good chance of reaching a trade deal with China.

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

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

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

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.

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