After nearly three months of negotiations, President Trump and Chinese President Xi could not reach a conclusion and bring to an end tariffs imposed on soy growers by China since July 2018, a measure that would have brought great relief to soy growers.
Davie Stephens, a soybean grower from Clinton, Kentucky, and American Soybean Association (ASA) president stated, “We are glad that talks between these two countries will continue without the tariff hike previously expected at the 90-day deadline later this week, but we need resolution and are discouraged that it’s still hard to see a tangible end in sight.”
The Chinese government has recently announced and begun to make good on government-to-government commitments to purchase American soybeans totaling around 20 million metric tons (735 million bushels), which is a positive step. However, ASA continues to push for more than piecemeal purchases and see open access to the China market restored through the removal of tariffs.
The value of U.S. soybean exports to China has grown exponentially the past 20 years, from $414 million in 1996 to $14 billion in 2017. China imported 31 percent of U.S. production in 2017, equal to 60 percent of total U.S exports and nearly one in every three rows of harvested beans. Over the next 10 years, Chinese demand for soybeans is expected to account for most of the growth in global soybean trade, making it a prime market for the U.S. and other countries.
While ASA is pleased that the Administration has announced that negotiations have been positive and will continue past Trump’s imposed 90 day window, soy growers continue to urge the Administration to rescind the tariffs and instead make soybeans a part of reducing our trade deficit with China.
China is proposing additional purchases of U.S. agriculture products of $30 billion a year in trade talks with the United States. Bloomberg reports the offer would be on top of pre-trade war levels and continue for an undefined period of time. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters Thursday it was “premature” to comment on the proposal, adding he didn’t want to raise expectations.
But, if an agreement is reached, Perdue says the U.S. structural reforms can “recover markets very, very quickly.” The proposal is part of the talks between trade officials from the U.S. and China taking place in Washington, D.C. this week. In response, Arlan Suderman of INTL FCStone, expressed caution, noting “China will say what needs to be said to get a deal, but the key component will be in the verification and enforcement.” The talks face a March 1 deadline, although President Trump has recently suggested he would consider extending the deadline.
The American Soybean Association says trade talks are good, soybean purchases are good, but lifting the tariff that China slapped on U.S. soybean imports would be better.
The ASA says it’s the only way U.S. soybean producers can regain commercial access to China, their most significant overseas market. “It’s encouraging that the administration is keeping soybeans in their trade conversations with China,” says Davie Stephens, ASA President. “The Chinese Vice Premiere’s commitment to buy another five million tons of soybeans is encouraging, but it’s not the answer. We need an agreement at the end of the 90-day period that specifically rescinds the tariff that China has imposed on U.S. soybean imports.”
The ASA president says the “good-faith” purchase commitment is a positive sign that both countries are working towards the real progress that soybean producers are looking for. However, the purchases don’t offset the damage done to the soybean industry since tariffs were imposed. It also doesn’t repair the long-term damage the tariffs have done to a relationship that was decades in the making. ASA is joining other organizations in asking congressional members to help strengthen their message to the Administration that rescinding the tariffs are vital to the health of the farm economy.