China confirms ‘considerable’ purchases of US soybeans and pork ahead of October’s trade war talks
China has bought a “considerable” amount of soybeans and pork from the United States ahead of high level talks aimed at ending the protracted trade war, the Ministry of Commerce confirmed on Thursday.
The ministry’s comments at its regular weekly press conference were generally upbeat but did not disclose any new information about the crucial trade talks expected to take place in Washington during the second week of October.
“China and the US are currently maintaining close communications and preparing for positive progress in the high-level economic and trade talks. The Chinese side has always been consistent in its negotiations. It is hoped that the two sides will meet half way and find a mutually beneficial and win-win approach based on equality and mutual respect,” said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng.
Gao described deputy-level trade talks that took place in Washington last week in preparation for the high level talks as “constructive” but did not elaborate further. He also did not disclose the exact date for the meeting, but did confirm that agricultural purchases are back underway.
“Recently Chinese enterprises have started, based on the markets and World Trade Organisation rules, price enquiries and purchases of US agricultural products, and have also completed considerable transactions for soybeans and pork,” said Gao.
On Tuesday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer would host another round of trade negotiations with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He in two weeks.
“I think it’s not next week but the following week we’ll be having those talks,” Mnuchin said in an interview with Fox Business Network, adding that negotiators had made some progress in easing the trade tensions in last week’s deputy-level meetings.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that a deal to end the trade war “could happen sooner than you think”, just a day after blasting China in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“China is starting to buy our agricultural product again,” Trump said. “They’re starting to go with the beef and all of the different things … pork, very big on pork. You know they want to make a deal and they should want to make a deal. The question is, do we want to make a deal?”
The US and China have traded other conciliatory gestures, raising hopes they can de-escalate a 15-month-old stand-off that has seen bilateral tariffs slapped on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of products.
Trump said earlier this month that US had agreed to delay a tariff increase on US$250 billion worth of Chinese imports from October 1 to October 15 “as a gesture of goodwill.” October 1 is China’s National Day holiday, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.
China also announced that it would exempt some US agricultural products, including soybeans and pork, from additional trade war tariffs, ahead of the resumption of purchases, which do not come as a surprise given the African swine fever crisis gripping the world’s most populous nation.
China is facing a severe shortage of pork – a staple food in the country – with African swine fever
destroying between 40 and 60 per cent of the pig population in the world’s largest pork market, according to various estimates.
China’s pork imports surged 76 per cent in August to 162,935 tonnes as Beijing scrambled to cover the shortfall in domestic supply. A need for pork imports is one reason underlying Beijing’s decision to exempt US pork from tariffs.
The ministry announced earlier on Thursday that it would auction a further 10,000 tonnes of pork from its frozen reserves, the second such auction in a month.
“China’s market demand for high quality agricultural products is very large,” added Gao. “China and the US can complement each other in agriculture, there’s big room for collaboration. It is hoped that both sides can work together and take practical measures for the collaboration [to take place].”