The goal is for President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to agree on a preliminary “framework” for ending the countries’ trade hostilities when they meet, as scheduled, later this month in Argentina at the G20 summit, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad told Agri-Pulse today.

“We’re trying to be prepared for the G20 meeting, and hopefully out of that can come the beginnings of a resolution for the trade issues,” Branstad said after a meeting today with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at USDA headquarters. “My hope is that we can develop a framework that can lead to an agreement.”

Before talking to  Perdue, Branstad met with Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss plans for negotiating with China, the ambassador and former Iowa governor said.

“Obviously, we’re going to try to do all we can to try to get something resolved on this,” he said. “It’s critically important.”

China, in retaliation to U.S. tariffs, has hit just about every U.S. farm commodity with stiff import taxes. They include a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans which has virtually halted U.S. exports of the oilseed. The U.S. first hit China with steel and aluminum tariffs and then began levying more tariffs to punish the country for intellectual property theft.

Perdue “expressed optimism that President Trump’s approach to trade will lead to a resolution of the dispute with China,” a USDA spokesman told Agri-Pulse after the meeting with Branstad.

Citing the trade war with China, the USDA today cut its forecast for U.S. soybean exports for the current marketing year by 160 million bushels, to 1.9 billion bushels.

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A separate analysis published today by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service said U.S. soybean exports to China have virtually halted.

“Since the beginning of the current trade tensions, purchases of U.S. soybeans by China have evaporated, with many previously booked sales being canceled,” FAS said in the analysis. “The few quantities that were shipped after the imposition of duties have either been diverted to other markets (Vietnam, Singapore, and South Korea) or are currently languishing off the coast of China, waiting to be discharged.”

USTR Chief Agriculture Negotiator Gregg Doud today played down the possibility of any major agreements at the G20 summit.

“We have got a lot of work in that relationship to get it where it needs to be,” he said at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention in Kansas City, Mo. “My hope is that it leads to another conversation, that leads to another conversation, that we can begin to make some progress here to sit down and talk …”

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