By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – In an effort to avoid an escalation of the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, Chinese trade officials have apparently, once again, pledged to buy tens of billions of dollars’ worth of additional U.S. agricultural products.
“Yesterday, there were reports China is going to buy $30 billion in additional agricultural products, mostly soybeans,” Charles Payne said Feb. 22 during his regular “Making Money with Charles Payne” television show on the Fox Business channel.
The show was one of several national media outlets that reported China was promising to import $30 billion in additional U.S. farm products in an effort to reach a trade deal with the United States.
China imported $21 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products in 2017, Making China the No. 2 export market for U.S. farm products, behind Canada ($22 billion).
The two nations last year announced hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs on each other and China’s tariffs largely targeted the United States’ agricultural sector. The amount of U.S. farm goods China purchased dropped significantly last year as a result of that development.
If the U.S. and China reach an agreement and China follows through on its pledge to buy an additional $30 billion worth of U.S. farm products, “maybe those farmers who had to suffer through this will be rewarded after all,” Payne said.
This is the third time since last May that Chinese trade negotiators have pledged to buy massive additional amounts of U.S. farm products.
In May, the White House issued what it called a joint statement between the two nations that said both sides agreed on significant increases in U.S. agriculture and energy product exports to China. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue followed that announcement up by telling reporters the U.S. was pushing China to increase the amount of ag commodities it purchases from the United States by about $25 billion annually.
President Donald Trump tweeted at the time, “China has agreed to buy massive amounts of ADDITIONAL farm/agriculture products —would be one of the best things to happen to our farmers in many years.”
He also tweeted, “Under our potential deal with China, they will purchase from our Great American Farmers practically as much as our Farmers can produce.”
Following that announcement, the trade talks frayed and Trump said the U.S. would increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of products from China from 10 percent to 25 percent.
On Dec. 1, the White House again announced that China had agreed to start buying substantially more farm products from the United States. In return, the president agreed to leave the U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of products from China at 10 percent and not raise them to 25 percent.
At that time, the two sides agreed they would try to have an agreement completed by March 1. If that didn’t happen, U.S. officials said, the tariffs on Chinese products would be increased to 25 percent.
At the time, Trump tweeted, “Farmers will be a very big and fast beneficiary of our deal with China … We make the finest and cleanest product in the world, and that is what China wants. Farmers, I love you!”
Following four days of trade talks that began Feb. 21, and with the March 1 deadline looming, Trump announced the U.S. will delay increasing the tariffs.
“I am pleased to report that the U.S. has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency and many other issues,” Trump tweeted Feb. 24. “As a result of these very productive talks, I will be delaying the U.S. increase in tariffs now scheduled for March 1. Assuming both sides make additional progress, we will be planning a Summit for [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] and myself, at Mar-a-Lago, to conclude an agreement. A very good weekend for U.S. & China!”