Farmers, ranchers and ag exporters hoping President Joe Biden will engage Chinese President Xi Jinping Monday evening on trade tariffs or supply chain problems will likely be disappointed. Neither topic is on Biden’s agenda for the virtual meeting, according to a senior White House official who previewed expectations for the conversation to reporters.

Biden will be pressing Xi on China’s subsidies for its industrial sector, among several other contentious issues, but the trade war that is still effectively in place and the underlying tariffs that continue to impact the U.S. ag and food sector won’t likely be topics brought up by Biden during the virtual talks that are expected to last several hours, the Biden administration official said.

Xi may bring up the U.S. tariffs that are making Chinese goods more expensive to U.S. consumers, but Biden is not likely to bring up the topic, the official said.

“I do not expect tariffs to be something that will be on the agenda for (Monday) night,” the White House official said.

China is buying and importing U.S. corn, soybeans, sorghum, dairy and pork, but only after the Chinese government agrees on an ad hoc basis to exempt retaliatory tariffs. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to levy tariffs on many Chinese goods that the U.S. ag sector depends on.

The Chinese demanded an end to the Trump tariffs even as the negotiations were underway for the “phase one” deal in late 2019.

“On the tariffs, the Chinese position is clear and strong,” China’s Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said back then. “This trade war will end if all the tariffs are removed.”

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced recently a new ongoing dialogue with her counterpart, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, but stressed there are no plans to negotiate a second phase of the trade deal struck during the Trump administration.

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Adding to the urgency for some in the U.S. is the fact that China’s pledge to purchase U.S. ag commodities under the “phase one” trade deal ends on Dec. 31.

“As the purchase commitments in the Phase 1 Agreement expire at the end of this year, American Farm Bureau supports further discussion between the U.S. and China to continue a set of purchase commitments by China for U.S. agricultural products,” Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall told Tai and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in an Aug. 30 letter.

Another major issue for the U.S. ag sector is the difficulty in getting commodities onto containers and loaded on vessels to ship to Asia. Much of that difficulty is being caused when Chinese exporters pay shipping companies to bring containers back to China empty, rather than load up with U.S. pork, rice, chicken, almonds, wine and hay bound for Asia.  

But Biden also does not intend to bring up supply chain issues during the meeting with Xi, a White House official told reporters.

“It’s not something I expect to be a significant point of discussion, but certainly there are a number of economic issues and other questions they will touch through the course of the conversation,” the White House official said.

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