US, China postpone more tariffs

China promises to buy more US soybeans

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President-Trump
President Donald J. Trump and President Xi of China met in November 2017, but trade relations soured with the implementation of tariffs after the trade talks failed. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

WASHINGTON — The United States Department of Agriculture announced Feb. 22 that in White House meetings the Chinese government committed to buy an additional 10 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans.

The announcement came as the U.S. and China held talks over the weekend in Beijing, in advance of the March 1 deadline for additional tariffs.

At the close of the weekend, President Donald Trump said he would postpone a March 1 deadline for increasing 10 percent punitive duties on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25 percent, but he set no new target date.

Since last summer, the world’s two biggest economies have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods.

Specifically, Beijing imposed import taxes on soybeans and other agricultural products in an effort to pressure Trump supporters in the U.S. farm belt. In the first 10 months of 2018, U.S. soybean exports to China dropped to 8.2 million metric tons from 21.4 million metric tons a year earlier — a 62 percent freefall, according to the Agriculture Department.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Dec. 1 to postpone more penalties while they negotiate. Increases that already were imposed remained in place, battering companies on both sides.

The fight is over U.S. complaints that Beijing steals technology or pressures companies to hand it over.

‘Biggest farm deal.’

President Donald Trump, in remarks before his meeting with Vice Premier Liu He of the People’s Republic of China Feb. 22, said the talks will be beneficial for the farm world.

“I think we’re doing very well with regard to farmers and the buying of products from our farmers at a certain point,” Trump said.

But when the China pact is finalized, the president added, “this will be a very, very substantial farm deal. This will be the biggest farm deal ever made.”

The Chinese government has begun to make good on government-to-government commitments to purchase American soybeans totaling around 20 million metric tons (735 million bushels).

Want open market

Still, not all U.S. soybean growers are happy, pointing out the total purchases do not add up to the value to soybean growers of seeing retaliatory trade tariffs rescinded.

“It is good to see our beans moving to China again,” said Davie Stephens, a grower from Clinton, Kentucky, and president of the American Soybean Association (ASA). “What our industry needs right now is structural reform that leads to China rescinding its tariff on U.S. beans and fully reopening the market.”

Big market

The value of U.S. soybean exports to China has grown 26-fold in 20 years, from $414 million in 1996 to $14 billion in 2017. China imported 31 percent of U.S. production in 2017, equal to 60 percent of total U.S exports and nearly one in every three rows of harvested beans.

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