WASHINGTON — Talks are good, purchases are good, but lifting the tariff that China imposed last July on soybean imports from the United States is the only way for U.S. soybean farmers to regain commercial access to the significant Chinese market.
“It is heartening that the administration is keeping soybeans in the conversation during the ongoing 90-day negotiation period with China, and again this week in the President Donald Trump’s State of the Union remarks,” said Davie Stephens, a grower from Clinton, Ky., and American Soybean Association (ASA) president.
“Chinese Vice Premier Liu’s commitment to buy an additional five million tons of U.S. soybeans is encouraging, but it is not the answer. We need an agreement at the end of this 90-day period that specifically rescinds the tariff that China has imposed on U.S. soybean imports,” Stephens continued.
Members of the administration, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, met with Chinese officials in D.C. last week. While the two countries have not shared any formal areas of agreement, Liu’s “good-faith” purchase commitment is a positive sign both countries are working towards the real progress that is needed for soy producers.
As of Feb. 1, China’s purchases of the 2018 U.S. soybean crop totaled about 6.5 million tons — or just 20 percent of past annual levels of more than 30 million tons. These purchases do not come close to offsetting the damage done to the soybean industry since the tariffs were imposed — nor do they negate the likely long-term damage to a trading relationship that was decades in the making.
“We still do not know what the longstanding consequences will be to the industry,” said Stephens. “Until this tariff is lifted and we can go in and try to repair our relationship with this important China market, we will not know the lasting repercussions.”
ASA is joining other agriculture organizations this week in asking Members of Congress to help strengthen their message to the administration that rescinding the tariffs imposed by the U.S. and China is vital to the health of the U.S. farm economy and American farm families.