China Said to Be Restarting Imports of US Soybeans and Natural Gas as Trump Cites Xi’s ‘Strong Signals’

By Cathy He, Epoch Times
December 5, 2018 Updated: December 5, 2018

The Chinese regime is getting ready to resume imports of U.S. soybeans and liquified natural gas (LNG), Bloomberg reported, in a move confirming the Trump administration’s claim that China had agreed to “immediately” start purchasing some U.S. products.

Chinese officials have been instructed to take necessary steps for the purchases, two officials told the outlet. However, it was unclear if this meant China would scrap the retaliatory tariffs on these items—currently at 25 percent for soybeans, and 10 percent for LNG. The exact timing of the purchases was also not clear.

After the Dec. 1 Trump-Xi meeting which yielded a 90 day truce in the Sino-U.S. trade war, the White House said in a statement that “China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries. China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural product from our farmers immediately.”

After mostly keeping mostly silent on details from the meeting, Chinese authorities, via a brief statement on the Commerce Ministry’s website, said Dec. 4 that China would try to work quickly to implement specific issues already agreed upon. It did not elaborate on what these issues were.

The ministry added that both sides were working along a “clear timetable and road map,” but did not give details.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Dec. 5 wrote on Twitter that China was sending “strong signals,” and expressed optimism that the regime would fulfill its side of the bargain.

“Very strong signals being sent by China once they returned home from their long trip, including stops, from Argentina. Not to sound naive or anything, but I believe President Xi meant every word of what he said at our long and hopefully historic meeting. ALL subjects discussed!” Trump wrote in a post.

Trump, however, earlier warned that if a solid trade deal could not be reached, his administration would continue levying “major tariffs” against China.

“We are either going to have a REAL DEAL with China, or no deal at all – at which point we will be charging major tariffs against Chinese product being shipped into the United States. Ultimately, I believe, we will be making a deal – either now or into the future,” Trump tweeted on Dec. 4.

The president also noted that negotiations between the two countries were underway and left open the possibility of an extension to the ceasefire.

Lifting Tariffs?

As the two countries work to resolve their differences, some Chinese analysts expect China to cut agricultural tariffs as a sign on commitment to the trade truce.

“China will for sure cancel the 25 percent tariffs on U.S. agriculture products. China has to do this, basically to get room to breathe,” an executive at a state-owned trading house told Reuters.

“Tariffs on U.S. soybeans might drop as the two sides enter a honeymoon period. It is expected that they will start sending out goodwill signals,” Tian Hao, senior analyst with First Futures told Reuters.

China imports almost 90 percent of its soybeans, and the United States had been the country’s primary supplier of soybeans. But U.S. exports of the product have drastically decreased after China slapped retaliatory duties of 25 percent on the product this spring.

China’s tariffs on U.S. soybeans had earlier pushed the price of soybeans from Brazil, the world’s top supplier, so high that Chinese buyers could have imported American soybeans and paid the tariff for less.

But that premium has been significantly eroded in recent weeks after China built up large soybean stocks, and demand for soymeal declined in the wake of an African swine fever epidemic ravaging the country’s huge hog herd.

Reuters contributed to this report. Epoch Times staff writer Annie Wu also contributed to this report.