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Trump says China trade deal unnecessary before election

WASHINGTON — As China and the U.S. near a new round of trade talks, President Donald Trump said Friday he doesn’t feel he needs to secure an agreement before next year’s election.

Trump told reporters he wants a complete deal with China and won’t accept one that only addresses some of the differences between the two nations.

“I’m not looking for a partial deal, I’m looking for a complete deal,” Trump said during a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

For more than a year, the world’s two largest economies have been locked in a high-stakes duel marked by Trump’s escalating penalties on Chinese goods and Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs.

Trump said voters understand the “spat” between the U.S. and China and insist the ongoing trade war won’t hamper his reelection chances, but he conceded that reaching an agreement “would probably be a positive” for his campaign.

Trump continued to try to paint a dark picture of the Chinese economy ahead of talks that resume next month in Washington. Negotiators from the two countries are also engaging in discussions over the next two weeks to lay the groundwork for the October session.

“China is being affected very badly. We’re not,” Trump insisted.

It’s true that China’s economy is decelerating, slowed by Trump’s taxes on Chinese imports and by Beijing’s deliberate campaign to combat runaway debts. Still, the International Monetary Fund expects the Chinese economy to grow 6.2% this year.

Morrison said Australia has benefited greatly from China’s economic growth. At the same time, he said once China’s economy got to a certain level, “then you need to be obviously playing to the same rules as those other developed nations.”

Meanwhile, the United States Trade Representative updated and expanded its list of products coming from China temporarily excluded from import duties. The hundreds of products listed include such things as parts for automatic teller machines, power supply cables for airplanes, drone parts, drinking straws and electronically-propelled skateboards.

After Trump’s comments, a Chinese delegation nixed its plans to travel to Montana after contacting the Montana Farm Bureau the day before about a visit to discuss agricultural commodities, said Scott Kulbeck, Montana Farm Bureau director of membership development.

“The next thing we heard, they canceled the visit,” he said. “They just decided they had to cut their trip short and return to China.” Kulbeck said Chinese embassy officials expressed interest in visiting the state another time.

Trump also emphasized the importance of passing a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. “Hopefully that’s going to be put up to a vote very soon,” Trump said. “We need that for our country.”

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington and Matt Volz in Helena, Montana, contributed to this report.

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