The U.S. and China are making strong progress on implementing the “phase one” trade deal and both sides expect the pact will be successful despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement released late Thursday night by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
“Both sides agreed that good progress is being made on creating the governmental infrastructures necessary to make the agreement a success,” says the statement that came after a virtual meeting between USTR Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. “They also agreed that in spite of the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner.”
But President Donald Trump on Friday morning offered much less optimistic comments about China and the fate of the “phase one” trade pact.
“Look, I’m having a very hard time with China,” Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends. “I made a great trade deal months before this whole thing happened. And it was kicking in a month ago and starting to kick in and starting to produce and then this happens and it sort of overrides so much.”
Trump repeated accusations that the Chinese government was responsible for the pandemic and, when pressed in the interview about the Friday call with China on the trade pact, he offered uncertainty.
“I’m very torn as to — I have not decided yet, if you want to know the truth,” he said.
China has already followed through on key promises in “phase one,” such as removing restrictions on U.S. beef and pork. The country has also been making big purchases of U.S. corn and wheat and other commodities in an effort to meet the pledge of buying $36.5 billion worth of ag and food products this year.
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The USDA on Thursday reported export sales of 686,000 metric tons of corn to China, more than double the amount of U.S. corn China purchased in all of 2019. On March 20 Chinese importers bought 756,000 tons of U.S. corn and on April 3 they bought another 567,000 tons.
“China’s recent purchases of U.S. corn place the country back in the top five markets for U.S. corn, which is promising news for U.S. farmers in this critical time,” the U.S. Grains Council said in a statement provided to Agri-Pulse Thursday.
Earlier this year, USDA economists predicted China would import $14 billion worth of U.S. ag goods, a figure that alarmed an industry expecting the $36.5 in purchases as agreed upon in the "phase one" deal.
The Chinese government’s write up of the Lighthizer-Mnuchin-Liu meeting Thursday night was less direct, but also positive in tone.
“The two sides agreed that they should enhance macroeconomic and public health cooperation, create a favorable atmosphere and conditions for the implementation of the China-U.S. phase-one trade deal, and strive for positive outcomes,” according to a posting from Xinhua, a state-sponsored media outlet.