The White House has announced that China has agreed to purchase U.S. agricultural products.
Here’s what we know
According to a news release from the White House on Wednesday, while discussing “topics such as forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, services, non-tariff barriers, and agriculture,” the Chinese negotiators “confirmed their commitment to increase purchase of United States agricultural exports.”
The White House called the meetings “constructive” and said it expected “negotiations on an enforceable trade deal to continue in Washington, D.C., in early September.
This announcement stands in stark contrast to President Donald Trump’s tweets on Tuesday. Trump said that China was “supposed to start buying our agricultural products now” but were showing “no signs that they are doing so.”
These talks took place in China, and were led on the U.S. side by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The news release also stated that further trade negotiations with China are planned for Washington, D.C., in early September.
What’s the background?
After the Trump administration announced steep tariffs on all imports of steel and aluminum to the U.S., China responded with retaliatory tariffs. The U.S. issued more tariffs of its own, which led to even more Chinese tariffs. During this trade conflict, U.S. exports of agricultural goods like soybeans and sorghum to China decreased significantly. This has led to the federal government bailing out farmers to the tune of nearly $30 billion.
China is consistently one of the United States’ largest trading partners. Last year, the U.S. exported roughly $120 billion worth of goods to China, and purchased $540 billion. U.S. exports to China for the first five months of 2019 (the only ones with data published so far) is down more than $10 billion from the same time period in 2018 ($53 billion to $43 billion).