Trump hits out at China over slowing agricultural purchases

Data released on July 11, 2019 by the US Department of Agriculture indicate that China slowed its purchases of American agriculture products following the G-20 meeting. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - US President Donald Trump complained that China hasn't increased its purchases of American farm products, a promise he said he had secured at a meeting with Chinese President, Xi Jinping, at the Group of 20 summit last month.

Mr Xi and Mr Trump agreed to restart trade talks between their countries at the meeting, and the US president said he would hold off on imposing additional tariffs on Chinese imports. Mr Trump also claimed Mr Xi had agreed that China would buy large amounts of US agricultural goods.

But data released on Thursday (July 11) by the US Department of Agriculture indicate that China actually slowed its purchases of American agriculture products following the G-20 meeting.

China bought 127,800 metric tons of US soybeans last week, the equivalent of about two cargoes and a 79 per cent reduction from the previous week. Similarly, China bought just 76 tons of American pork, compared to 10,400 tons in June.

"Mexico is doing great at the Border, but China is letting us down in that they have not been buying the agricultural products from our great Farmers that they said they would," Mr Trump said on Thursday on Twitter. "Hopefully they will start soon!"

Earlier on Thursday, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said the agricultural trade is "an important issue that the two sides need to talk about" but didn't confirm whether China agreed to buy American agricultural products as part of the agreement reached in Osaka.

In the readout of the Xi-Trump meeting published by the state-run Xinhua news agency, it only mentioned that Mr Trump said he hoped China could increase imports from the US, and didn't say how Mr Xi or the Chinese team responded.

Mr Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-owned Global Times newspaper tweeted late Thursday that the "achievement of Osaka summit is a China-US consensus, not a unilateral commitment China made to the US. Hope the US will lift all sanctions on Huawei soon and respect principal of equality."

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke on the phone with their Chinese counterparts this week, marking the first high-level contact following the G-20 meeting.

The American officials spoke to Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan on Tuesday, according to an emailed statement from a US government official who declined to be identified. Both sides will continue these talks as appropriate, the official said, without offering more details on the next steps.

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