By Vivian Salama and William Mauldin
WASHINGTON -- President Trump rejected suggestions that the U.S. would accept a partial trade agreement with China, saying his administration is "looking for a complete deal."
Speaking to reporters at a news conference Friday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Mr. Trump said China's offer to boost purchases of U.S. agriculture exports alone isn't enough to compel his administration to sign a deal. Intellectual-property theft, he added, remains an issue that must be resolved.
Mr. Trump dismissed the trade war with China, widely cited as an important factor in the global economic slowdown, as "a little spat" and reiterated his respect for China's President Xi Jinping.
The president's comments came as U.S. and Chinese officials were holding midlevel meetings in Washington, according to a spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
The deputy-level officials were working Thursday and Friday to set the agenda for talks planned with Mr. Lighthizer and other senior officials next month.
"These discussions were productive, and the United States looks forward to welcoming a delegation from China for principal-level meetings in October," Mr. Lighthizer's office said in a statement Friday.
"These trade talks are tough," said Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who has followed the discussions closely. "Not surprising, we're going to have twists and turns, but we're still focused on the talks in October and hope to have progress then."
Business leaders hope to see progress in the talks over coming weeks that could lead Mr. Trump to further delay or scrap plans for both a five-percentage-point hike in some U.S. tariff levels in October and the launch in December of major new tariffs on consumer goods imported from China.
On Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said China's delegates were planning to visit U.S. farms after talks in Washington concluded, adding that it wasn't clear whether their plans suggested they were going to announce U.S. agricultural purchases.
CNBC reported Friday that the Chinese trade negotiators would head back to China after the talks and were no longer planning to visit farms in Montana and elsewhere.
"They are not coming to Montana," said a woman who answered the phone at the Montana Farm Bureau. "They have changed their travel plans and are heading home."
Mr. Trump has used tariffs and economic threats to maintain pressure on China. Some administration officials are wary of Beijing seeking to erode U.S. support for the trade war by making overtures to American businesses and farmers who benefit from trade with China.
--Josh Zumbrun contributed to this article.
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