Ag Secretary: Deal With China Must Go Beyond Agricultural Purchases

Source: By Chris Clayton, Progressive Farmer • Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2019

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke Wednesday at the United Fresh conference in Washington. Perdue spoke mostly about trade and labor issues, and said it was encouraging that the U.S. and China were again negotiating on trade. (DTN photo by Chris Clayton)
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke Wednesday at the United Fresh conference in Washington. Perdue spoke mostly about trade and labor issues, and said it was encouraging that the U.S. and China were again negotiating on trade. (DTN photo by Chris Clayton)

WASHINGTON (DTN) — U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators start talks again on Thursday in Washington, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Wednesday that a successful trade deal still must go beyond buying U.S. farm products.

“We want them to be a customer, but we want them to play buy the rules everybody else plays by,” Perdue told representatives from the fruit and vegetable industries at the United Fresh conference Wednesday morning.

Trade talks between China and the U.S. are starting up again after a summer of tension and increasing tariffs. Earlier this month both countries agreed to delay tariff increases. Chinese officials last week stated agricultural products such as soybeans and pork would not be subject to additional tariffs, for now.

The secretary stressed that trade talks with China must continue to focus on issues such as forced transfer of technology and intellectual property theft that sparked President Donald Trump to start trade talks with China in 2017.

Talking to reporters on Tuesday, President Trump reiterated a talking point he’s raised multiple times in the trade dispute by stressing China will buy large volumes of agricultural commodities soon. “They are starting to buy our farm products big league,” the president said.

The new marketing year just began for soybeans, but Chinese buyers were prohibited until recently from buying any U.S. beans. Outstanding sales, as of last week, were about 864,000 metric tons, which is 38% below sales at the same period last year. Pork sales, which operate on a calendar year, have reached 237,800 mt of U.S. pork and variety meats from January through July of this year, according to USDA data, a 51% increase from 2018.

While the U.S. presidential election is nearly 14 months away, the president indicated in his comments to reporters on Air Force One that talks with China could last that long. If talks carry on after the election, Trump said he would be a tougher negotiator than now.

“I think there’ll be a deal maybe soon, maybe before the election, or one day after the election,” Trump said. “And if it’s after the election, it’ll be a deal like you’ve never seen, it’ll be the greatest deal ever and China knows that. They think I’m going to win. China thinks I’m going to win so easily and they’re concerned because I told them, if it’s after the election it’s going to be far worse than what it is right now. I told them that. Would they like to see somebody else win? Absolutely.”

|