President Donald Trump on Friday said that he has asked China to “immediately remove all tariffs” on American agricultural products, in return for his decision to postpone a March 1 deadline that would have dramatically raised U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports.
Trump made the request “based on the fact that we are moving along nicely with trade discussions,” he said. The president called in particular for Beijing to lift its levies on products such as beef and pork.
On Sunday, Trump announced that he would delay the additional tariffs that were scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of March and would have more than doubled levies from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion in Chinese goods. The president has not announced a new deadline for that round of tariffs.
Trump also said Sunday that if more progress is made toward a resolution of the long-running trade negotiations between the two countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping would be invited to a summit at Trump’s Florida golf course, Mar-a-Lago, to “conclude an agreement.”
Trump’s top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, painted a rosy picture of the ongoing trade negotiations in an interview with CNBC on Thursday.
“The progress has been terrific,” Kudlow said, while adding that “we have to hear from the Chinese side. We have to hear from President Xi Jinping, of course. I think we’re headed for a remarkable, historic deal.”
A day before Kudlow’s interview, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer gave a more cautious outlook in testimony before Congress.
“Much still needs to be done both before an agreement is reached,” Lighthizer testified, “and, more importantly, after it is reached, if one is reached.”
Trump’s request could also suggest he recognizes the impact of the U.S.-China trade war has taken on American farmers. Growing tariffs have led to China scaling back purchases of U.S. grain, and have affected the storage, shipping and freight operations that American farmers need to move their crops to market.
Last July, Beijing imposed an additional 25 percent retaliatory tariff on U.S. beef imports. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last year in a report that China’s middle class continues to grow in size and so does their appetite for Western-style diets, including beef.
Still, most of China’s beef imports currently come from Australia and South American countries.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the trade group for the U.S. beef industry, responded to Trump’s tweet Friday by suggesting China’s president “shouldn’t have to fly all the way to Mar-a-Lago to enjoy a USDA Prime Ribeye. It’s time for China to lift the trade barriers on U.S. beef so our 1.4 billion Chinese consumers can enjoy beef again.”
At the same time, American pork now faces hefty import taxes from China that exceed 70 percent, which includes two rounds of tariffs that took effect last year.
China is the world’s largest pork producer but outbreaks of the deadly African swine fever virus have led to tighter pork supplies domestically and the possibility of increased demand for American pork products in 2019. The volume of American pork exports to China fell by 20 percent in the first 11 months of 2018, according to the U.S. Meat and Export Federation.
“The United States produces the safest, highest-quality and most affordable pork in the world,” said Jim Monroe, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, the industry’s largest trade association. “China represents an enormous opportunity for U.S. pork producers and we are eager to gain more favorable access to this market.”