Trade: as a sign of appeasement, Beijing free of surcharges of US agricultural products

A new gesture of good will: Beijing announced Friday a series of customs surcharge exemptions, this time applying to certain US agricultural products – dear to Donald Trump – in the run-up to new trade talks in Washington in October.
“China is encouraging the companies involved to buy some soybean and [pork] from the United States,” the official China News Agency said.

This announcement crowns a series of gestures of appeasement this week between the first two world powers, engaged since last year in a trade war. This tug of war has already resulted in the imposition of reciprocal tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of bilateral trade.

US farmers – an important electoral base for Donald Trump in the US 2020 presidential election – have been among the hardest hit by trade tensions.

China “wants the American side to keep its word […] and creates favorable conditions for cooperation in the field of agriculture,” China said.

In its highly-watched evening newspaper, the CCTV public television estimated Friday that these new customs surcharge exemptions represented “a gesture of goodwill” towards Washington. They “demonstrate the sincerity (of China) to solve” its trade dispute with the United States, assured a presenter.

The Asian giant, whose economy is increasingly affected by the conflict that has lasted 18 months, took the first step by announcing on Wednesday its intention to exempt from customs duties certain products from the United States, to as of September 17 and for one year.

In the wake, Donald Trump decided to postpone to October 15 an increase in tariffs on Chinese products representing $ 250 billion in annual imports “due to the celebration on October 1, the 70th anniversary of the Republic People’s Republic of China “.

“Make progress”

This is a change of tone for the US President who has repeatedly accused Beijing of reversing its promises to increase its purchases of US agricultural products to reduce the huge trade deficit of the United States with China.

In 2018, it amounted to 419.52 billion dollars (381 billion euros).

In early May, the two countries were on the verge of signing a trade deal when talks broke down abruptly, with the Trump administration accusing China of giving up its commitments.

But in recent days, the same administration has multiplied the signs of appeasement before new high-level bilateral negotiations scheduled for October in Washington.

“We do not want a trip (Chinese negotiators) that is just a series of discussions. We want to make substantial progress, “said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday.

He declined, however, to specify the points that would be specifically raised during the talks.

Avoid discontent

For his part, Donald Trump said Thursday that he did not exclude signing a tentative trade agreement with China, while saying that a global agreement remained his priority.

“It’s something you could consider,” said the White House tenant.

Washington is demanding that the Chinese authorities put an end to “unfair” business practices, including the forced transfer of US technology, massive subsidies to Chinese state-owned enterprises, and the theft of intellectual property.

The exemption from customs surcharges on US pork comes at a time when China, hit by a serious swine fever epidemic that is causing prices to go up in flames and forcing it to massively import, plans to tap frozen meat into its strategic reserves.

The prices of pork, by far the most consumed meat in the country and unavoidable in Chinese dishes, jumped 46.7% year on year in August.

To avoid any shortage, and especially any popular discontent that could tarnish the festivities of October 1 in China – which will be marked in particular by a huge military parade in Beijing – the authorities have made sufficient supply of pork a priority.

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