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- Bloomberg reported Monday that China directed state buyers to halt imports of US agricultural goods.
- That came after President Donald Trump announced plans to escalate tariffs on its products last week.
- Agricultural exports have been a major flashpoint for the president, whose reelection calculus could be altered by his trade wars.
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The Chinese government has reportedly backed down on its pledge to resume purchases of American farm products, a backtrack that would likely draw sharp ire from President Donald Trump.
Bloomberg reported Monday that China directed state buyers to halt imports of US agricultural goods after President Donald Trump announced plans to escalate tariffs on its products last week. The country had previously agreed to resume those purchases, which fell sharply last year as it retaliated against the Trump administration.
The report surfaced after Trump announced Thursday he would move forward with plans to slap tariffs on virtually all Chinese products on September 1. The proposed tax on roughly $300 billion worth of imports surprised negotiators on both sides, who last month resumed efforts to defuse tensions after Trump said he would suspend such threats.
Another reversal by China would cast another layer of doubt on whether further escalation could be avoided in the dispute over agriculture and a host of other issues, including intellectual property theft and the forced transfer of foreign technology. Washington said Beijing reneged on key commitments just as the two sides were on the cusp of a deal in May, stalling nearly a dozen rounds of negotiations and prompting US tariff increases.
Agricultural exports have been a major flashpoint for the president, whose reelection calculus could be altered by his trade wars. The Trump administration has rolled out a $28 billion bailout program for farmers, a major constituency for Trump that has largely lost access to the Chinese market in the wake of tariffs.
"We are committed for the year at this point and just trying to play the hand we’re dealt," said Dave Walton, a soybean grower in Wilton, Iowa. "It concerns me when this rhetoric ramps up from both sides, and can only guess the new Chinese stance is in retaliation for the threat of new tariffs from our side."
Trump said last Tuesday that there were no signs China had increased American farm purchases. He has expressed separate frustrations over the weakness of the Chinese yuan, which breached a psychologically crucial point against the dollar at the start of the week. The weakening was seen as an economic countermeasure from Beijing, which has said it would retaliate in the case of additional US tariffs.
"China dropped the price of their currency to an almost a historic low," the president wrote on Twitter early Monday. "It’s called ‘currency manipulation.’ Are you listening Federal Reserve? This is a major violation which will greatly weaken China over time!"
A White House spokesperson said last week the US expected negotiations to continue in Washington in early September. The Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond to an email requesting comment.
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