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China and the United States are still discussing details about forthcoming trade talks in October, making preparations to ensure “positive progress” is made during the negotiations, China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday.

The countries’ trade negotiators are expected to meet in Washington in about two weeks to determine if they can start to chart a path out of their bruising trade war or are headed for new and higher tariffs on each others’ goods.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday a deal to end a nearly 15-month trade war with China could happen sooner than people think and that China was making big agricultural purchases from the U.S., including of beef and pork.

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On Thursday, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng also said Chinese firms have made significant purchases of U.S. soybeans and pork, adding that those purchases were exempt from tariffs.

China and the United States complement each other in agriculture and there is ample room for further “co-operation” as Chinese demand for quality agricultural products is high, Mr. Gao said.

“We hope both sides can work together and take tangible actions to create favourable conditions for such co-operation,” he said.

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

When asked about that and Mr. Trump’s other remarks that he was in no rush to reach a deal with China before the 2020 U.S. elections, Mr. Gao reiterated hope that both sides can find a way to compromise.

“We wish the U.S. and China can meet halfway, and on a foundation of equality and mutual respect, find a win-win solution via negotiations. This will benefit China, the U.S. and the whole world,” he said.

UNRELIABLE ENTITY LIST

Mr. Gao also said China is still going through internal procedures for rolling out a much-anticipated “unreliable entity list,” which will be used for punishing companies that have undermined China’s national interests.

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It’s seen by some analysts as a convenient tool for retaliating against U.S. sanctions on Chinese tech firms, including telecommunications giant Huawei.

But Mr. Gao said the goal of the list is to protect fair competition, and “not to target any country’s companies, organizations or individuals.”

“We welcome companies from all countries in the world, including the U.S., to invest and do business in China,” he said.

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