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U.S. pushes China to increase American ag imports by $25 billion

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters May 23 that the U.S. is pushing China to increase the amount of American agriculture commodities it imports by about $25 billion annually.

According to Agri-Pulse, Perdue said it would take two to five years to accomplish that.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Fox News May 20 the U.S. expects to see a 35-45 percent increase in agricultural exports to China this year.

China imported $21 billion worth of agricultural products from the United States last year, making China the No. 2 market for U.S. farm products, behind Canada ($22 billion).

Perdue’s $25 billion total marks a remarkable turnaround in what was once a possible trade war between the two nations that many people believed would have significantly harmed U.S. farmers and ranchers.

Now, instead of being a potential big loser in the once-threatened trade war between the United States and China, U.S. agriculture could be one of the big winners.

President Donald Trump on May 21 tweeted, “China has agreed to buy massive amounts of ADDITIONAL Farm/Agricultural 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.”

The two nations in March and April announced hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs on each other and China’s proposed tariffs had largely targeted the United States’ agricultural sector.

But the U.S. and China on May 19 issued a joint statement announcing a framework that could reduce the U.S.’s $375 billion trade deficit with China.

According to that statement, which was issued by the White House, “both sides agreed on meaningful increases in United States agriculture and energy exports.”

In an op-ed piece published May 20 in the Omaha World-Herald, Perdue said that China for decades has not played by the rules and “maintained unwarranted barriers and trade-distorting policies harming U.S. agricultural products … By finally standing up to China, this administration is seeking better market access for our farmers.”

The ag secretary also said the president recognizes agriculture is often the top target when there is retaliation in a trade war “and for that reason he has directed me to use the authorities we have to protect farmers and farm income. The president and I will not allow our agriculture producers to bear the brunt of China’s retaliation.”