Chinese companies looking to buy US farm products

Trade between China and the US could resume if Asian economic giants do go through with the deal to buy US farm products like soy. (Bloomberg pic)

BEIJING: Some Chinese companies are seeking new purchases of US agricultural products, China’s official Xinhua news agency said on Sunday, citing authorities, as Beijing and Washington look for ways to end a protracted trade war.

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at last month’s G20 summit in Osaka to restart trade talks that stalled in May.

Trump said at the time he would not impose new tariffs and US officials said China agreed to make agricultural purchases. But Trump said on July 11 that China was not living up to promises to buy US farm goods.

Chinese businesses have made inquiries with US exporters to buy crops and agricultural products and applied for the lifting of tariffs, Xinhua said, citing Chinese authorities. China’s Customs Tariff Commission will arrange for experts to appraise the Chinese companies’ tariff exclusion applications, Xinhua said.

“Relevant Chinese departments expressed hope that the United States would meet China halfway, and earnestly implement the United States’ relevant promises,” the news agency said, without elaborating.

The world’s two largest economies have been embroiled in a tariff battle since July 2018, as the United States presses China to address what it sees as decades of unfair and illegal trading practices.

China has countered that any trade deal needs to be fair and equitable, leaving the two sides apparently still far from an agreement to end the back-and-forth that has rocked global supply chains and upended financial markets.

Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of China’s nationalist Global Times newspaper, tweeted in English earlier on Sunday that Chinese importers have started arrangements for purchasing US agricultural products, and suggested the United States and China could soon resume in-person trade talks.

“This is a prominent part from Chinese side as the two countries have signalled goodwill to each other recently. It also indicates China-US trade consultations will restart soon,” Hu said.

Trump said on Friday that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had a very good talk with his Chinese counterpart the day before. He has also touted US economic performance, and said China is “not doing very well”.

China has confirmed that Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan spoke by phone on Thursday with Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer regarding “further consultations, as well as the implementation of presidential consensus reached in Osaka”.

China made its biggest purchase of US sorghum since April earlier this month, according to US Department of Agriculture data issued on Thursday.

China, which is the world’s top soybean importer, also cancelled purchases of 9,853 metric tons of US soy this month, according to Thursday’s USDA data. It was China’s first weekly net cancellation of soybeans since April.