BEIJING—Chinese companies are willing to import more U.S. farm goods, the Ministry of Commerce said on July 25, as envoys prepared to meet in Shanghai next week for talks aimed to end a tariff war.
The announcement appeared to be aimed to defuse U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticism that Beijing was backsliding on a promise to narrow its trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more U.S. farm products.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on July 23 he expected Beijing to start buying U.S. agriculture products soon.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin emphasized the need for Beijing to make good on its pledge to buy more U.S. agricultural products in their recent phone calls with Chinese negotiators, Kudlow said.
A ministry spokesman, Gao Feng, confirmed on July 23 that trade envoys will hold their first face-to-face talks on July 30 since Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to restart stalled trade talks during the G-20 Summit in Japan in late June.
Mnuchin said earlier in Washington that he and Lighthizer would meet Chinese officials.
Gao said Chinese importers will negotiate with U.S. suppliers of farm goods, though he said there was “no direct relationship” with next week’s talks.
“Chinese companies have the willingness to continue importing some agricultural products from the United States,” Gao said at a news conference. “They have already inquired and will negotiate contracts with U.S. suppliers.”
Beijing blocked imports of U.S. soybeans and raised tariffs on other farm products in response to Trump’s duty increases on Chinese goods in response to complaints about China’s technology development plans.
China agreed in 2018 to buy more U.S. agricultural goods, natural gas, and other exports but scrapped that after one of Trump’s tariff hikes.
The Chinese regime said in June that any purchases must be at a reasonable level, suggesting Beijing was becoming more cautious about making commitments before it sees what Washington offers in exchange. Trump recently accused Beijing of backsliding, saying on Twitter that “China is letting us down.”
By Joe McDonald