China pledged to immediately begin ramping up U.S. soybean purchases, buying at least 5 million tons, Vice Premier Liu He announced today in the White House after two days of negotiations.

But there was confusion after the announcement, because Liu had pledged that China would be buying 5 million tons per day.

After intense rumors that Liu, who used an interpreter, misspoke, two Trump administration officials confirmed for Agri-Pulse that China was pledging to only to make purchases of 5 million tons of soybeans. That will come on top of the approximately 5 million tons that China has already purchased since a December meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China purchased about 36 million tons in 2017.

Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer stressed the talks were very productive and are expected to lead to an overall deal that ends the trade war.

“It really is a sign of good faith for China to buy that much of our soybeans … that they’ve just committed to us prior to the signing of the deal,” Trump said from the Oval Office, flanked by Liu, Lighthizer, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others.

“Our folks will be happy,” Perdue said.

China began sporadically buying U.S. soybeans again after a December meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, where the leaders agreed to accelerate talks to try to end the trade war between the two countries that has resulted in stiff Chinese tariffs on virtually all U.S. agricultural exports to China.

While the soybean purchases are a positive sign that the talks are yielding progress, the key to an overall successful deal will be China’s response to U.S. demands that the country stop appropriating U.S. intellectual property through forced technology transfer.

Lighthizer said progress was made on that controversial issue and on U.S. demands that China remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. farm commodities like beef, pork and poultry, but it is still too early to predict success. China’s Xi, in a letter to Trump, offered optimism the countries could “meet each other halfway” in upcoming talks.

Lighthizer said he will travel to China soon, although the country’s new year festivities may delay negotiations.

Trump left open the possibility that he could extend the deadline for a conclusion to the talks, but stressed it didn’t look like that would be needed. Back in December, Trump agreed to postpone a plan to raise the rates on $200 billion in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods until March 1.

If all goes well and negotiators can sew up agreements on outstanding issues, Trump said he plans on meeting Xi for a session to finalize a pact and bring an end to the trade war.

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