Come Nov. 3, President Donald Trump says he’s expecting to get a substantial boost at the ballot box from Bernie Sanders supporters, primarily based on Trump’s hard-line trade tactics with China.

Trump, in remarks to GOP delegates at the Republican National Convention Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, tried to cast his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, as weak on China and predicted that’s why he would scoop up ardent supporters for Sanders, the Vermont senator who lost in the contest for the Democratic nomination.

“This (Sanders) base doesn’t like Joe Biden,” Trump said. “They don’t like Joe Biden. I think we’re going to get a lot of votes … primarily because of trade – because I know how other countries take advantage of us and that’s something that Bernie Sanders' people really feel. Because I understand trade.”

Sanders and other former candidates for the Democratic nomination expressed their support for Biden during last week's Democratic National Convention

While much of the U.S. ag sector has expressed appreciation for the “phase one” trade pact with China that prompted the Chinese to begin lifting some ag tariffs in March, the trade war that began in 2018 has had an outsized impact on U.S. exports of farm commodities.

The U.S. exported $9.1 billion worth of ag commodities to China in 2018, down from $19.6 billion in 2017, according to USDA data. That bounced up in 2019 to $13.9 billion and Trump administration officials are hoping China will live up to its “phase one” promise to buy $36.5 billion worth of farm commodities.

Trump, in the Monday speech, also took credit for the billions of dollars in federal aid to farmers to ameliorate the trade war losses in 2018 and 2019 and joked about farmers who complained about the impact of China’s retaliatory tariffs.

“China will own our country if (Biden) gets elected,” Trump said.

A leading GOP critic of China, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, will speak Thursday night ahead of Trump’s acceptance speech. 

A brief outline of Trump’s second-term agenda, released just ahead of the convention, listed one of the top goals as “End our Reliance on China.” Trump is promising to bring back a million manufacturing jobs from China and to “hold China fully accountable” for the COVID-19 virus.

Trump on Monday again pointed to recent historic corn purchases by China. The USDA reported sales of 1.937 million metric tons of corn to China on July 30 and 1.762 million tons on July 14. Both were record-breaking purchases in size. 

Philip Brasher contributed to this story. 

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