China agreed to buy an additional 10 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans as negotiators from both countries agreed to extend the latest round of trade talks to go through the weekend, a sign that significant progress is being made to end the trade war, President Donald Trump said Friday.
"I would say it's more likely that a deal will happen," Trump told reporters in an Oval Office gathering with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. "The fact that they're willing to stay for quite a bit longer period, doubling up the time, that means something."
Liu, speaking through an interpreter, responded: "From China, we believe that it is very likely that it will happen and we hope that ... we'll have a deal ... The Chinese side is ready to make our ultimate effort."
“Strategy is working,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a tweet about the trade talks and the Chinese pledge to buy more soybeans. “Show of good faith by the Chinese.”
China has already purchased about 10 million tons of U.S. soybeans since December in previous shows of good faith, but the country’s 25 percent tariff remains in place and trade remains restricted.
Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said substantial progress was made over the past two weeks of talks in Beijing and then Washington, but also cautioned that significant hurdles remained.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was confident that an overall deal could be reached with China in less than a month and Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping would be able to finalize it in March.
“Ultimately I think the biggest decisions and even some smaller decisions will be made by President Xi and myself," Trump said.
Much of the U.S. ag sector is suffering under stiff Chinese tariffs. U.S. exports of oranges, apples, dairy, sorghum, wheat, almonds, cotton and many more commodities have taken sharp hits from the trade war.
But the pain will be worth it, Trump promised Friday.
“This will be a very substantial farm deal,” Trump said. “This will be the biggest farm deal ever made. Hopefully if we get a deal, (China) will be buying every form of farm product.”
The team of U.S. negotiators haggling with China over ag issues is not primarily focused on short-term promises from the Chinese to make purchases. The team led by Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney and U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator Gregg Doud is demanding the Chinese make substantial policy changes like lifting bans on hormone-treated beef and ractopamine-treaded pork.
Sources close to the talks told Agri-Pulse that some progress has been made on lifting Chinese tariff and non-tariff ag trade barriers.
A primary focus of the overall talks is to get assurances from the Chinese to stop trying to appropriate U.S. intellectual property and negotiators said today there have been some success on that front. And that’s vitally important for success in getting China to agree to things like reforming its much-maligned biotech approval process, according to Perdue.
“I think if we can get those kinds of assurances regarding China taking intellectual property theft seriously, then we could see renewed and expanded ag trade between the two countries," Perdue said.
Mnuchin offered strong optimism that a final deal is imminent and that Trump and Xi will be meeting next month in Mar-a-Lago to end the trade war, but Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was less certain.
“It’s a little early for the champagne,” Ross said.
For more news, go to Agri-Pulse.com.