President Donald Trump said late Friday that he has asked China to remove its tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports as the two countries work on reaching a broader trade agreement addressing Beijing‘s trade practices.
“I have asked China to immediately remove all Tariffs on our agricultural products (including beef, pork, etc.) based on the fact that we are moving along nicely with Trade discussions,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “And I did not increase their second traunch of Tariffs to 25% on March 1st. This is very important for our great farmers – and me!“
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Trump had been promising to ratchet up tariffs on billions worth of Chinese imports on March 1, but dropped the threat in a tweet on Sunday after he said talks has sufficiently progressed.
He said that a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping could happen later this month to finalize a deal to address U.S. allegations that Chinese industrial policies force U.S. companies to transfer technology to do business there. The administration and companies have also accused China of steal intellectual property.
Access to one of the top export markets for U.S. farm goods has been a key aspect of the negotiations. China‘s retaliation against U.S. tariffs has hit American farmers of soybeans and other commodities.
The USDA’s most recent forecast shows that the trade standoff between the two countries has severely hurt U.S. farm exports to China. Sales of U.S. soybeans and other farm commodities to China fell to $16.3 billion in fiscal 2018, from over $20 billion in fiscal 2017. They are forecast to decline even further — to $9 billion in the current fiscal year.
China has imposed countertariffs on almost all of the goods that the U.S. exports there. Trump‘s tweet doesn’t specify if his demand is that China lift just its retaliatory tariffs or all tariffs on U.S. farm products.
As part of a deal, China has pledged to increase its purchases of U.S. soybeans and has made good-faith purchases amounting to millions of metric tons of the crop. But in spite of the resumption of buying, China has not formally announced whether it would remove its retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans.
China has long been accused of putting up barriers to certain agricultural imports like beef and poultry. The administration also says China needs to fix long-standing market access problems that U.S. grains and meat have. It is pressing China to address non-tariff barriers that have made it more difficult to get genetically modified crops and U.S.-produced beef approved for export.
“I think farmers in this country understand that China has been a great, and will continue to be a great market for U.S. soybeans, but if we’re going to take this thing to the next level, we’ve got to figure out a way to open China to all of these other commodities and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do,” Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, said last month during USDA’s annual outlook forum.