Trump said China would more than double its agricultural purchases from the US. Farmers are skeptical.

gheeb@businessinsider.com (Gina Heeb)
trump farm

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

  • American farmers welcomed the announcement of an interim trade agreement between the US and China on Friday.
  • But they remained skeptical that China would more than double its farm purchases from the US.
  • At a press conference Friday night in Beijing, China declined to confirm a quota touted by the White House. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

American farmers welcomed the announcement of an interim trade agreement between the US and China on Friday. But they remain skeptical of President Donald Trump's pledge to more than double farm exports to that country. 

As part of a so-called phase-one deal, the White House has said China would purchase a steep $50 billion worth of agricultural products from the US annually. But at a press conference Friday night in Beijing, China would not confirm that quota or give any specific number. 

Brian Kuehl, the co-executive director at the anti-tariff advocacy group Farmers for Free Trade, called it "difficult if not impossible" for China to increase its purchases by that much over a short period of time. 

In 2017, China imported roughly $24 billion worth of American agricultural products. China has turned to other countries over the past year to avoid tariffs, creating additional competition for American farmers. 

"There are rightfully many doubts about the president's claim that China will purchase $50 billion in ag products in a single year," Kuehl said. "Market realities including supply and demand as well as inspections and regulations all create enormous barriers to completing these purchases next year." 

Asked when China would begin to ramp up US agricultural imports, Trump replied: "pretty soon."

Farmers have been hit particularly hard by the 19-month dispute between the largest economies, testing the loyalty of a key Trump constituency ahead of an election year. In 2018, US farm exports to China fell to below $10 billion. 

"Trump has his own narrative on the farm situation," said Dave Walton, a soybean grower in Iowa. "We are still short the profit we should have expected without the trade issue looming over the market."

As part of the phase-one deal, the US agreed to lower tariff rates on some Chinese products and cancel planned escalations. Details remained elusive Friday afternoon but the US said it also included commitments from China related to intellectual property, access to its financial services sector, and transparency around currency movements. 

"This agreement creates greater certainty for American businesses, after months of uncertainty, as they plan for the year ahead," said Myron Brilliant, the executive vice president and head of international affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce.

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