China will exempt some agricultural products from additional tariffs on US goods, including pork and soya beans, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Friday, in the latest sign of easing Sino-US tensions before a new round of talks aimed at curbing a bruising trade war.
The United States and China have both made conciliatory gestures, with China renewing purchases of US farm goods and US president Donald Trump delaying a tariff increase on certain Chinese goods.
China had imposed three rounds of additional tariffs on US pork, including 25 per cent increases in April and July 2018 and a 10 per cent bump this month, raising the total duty from 12 per cent to 72 per cent. For soya beans, additional tariffs of 25 per cent in July 2018 and 5 per cent this month lifted the total duty from 3 per cent to 33 per cent.
It was not immediately clear if some or all of the additional tariffs would be suspended.
‘China supports relevant enterprises buying certain amounts of soya beans, pork and other agricultural products from today in accordance with market principles and WTO rules,’ Xinhua said, adding that the Customs Tariff Commission of China’s State Council would exclude additional tariffs on those items.
China has ‘broad prospects’ for importing high-quality US agricultural goods, Xinhua reported, citing unidentified authorities.
US farm groups cheered the goodwill gesture by the world’s largest pork consumer and top soya bean buyer - though they hoped for more clarity from China on exactly what tariffs would be lifted.
‘The importance of this market to US pork producers is clear,’ said National Pork Producers Council President and North Carolina hog farmer David Herring. ‘US pork exports could be single handed make a huge dent in the trade imbalance with China.’
An outbreak of deadly African swine fever, which has cut China’s pig herd by a third since mid-2018, has propelled Chinese pork prices to record levels and left the country in need of replacement supplies from overseas. US pork exports to China so far this year have largely fallen short of expectations.
China is also expected to step up purchases of soya beans, historically the most valuable US farm export, which China has largely avoided buying since the trade war began last year. Exports valued at more than $12 billion in 2017 crashed by 74 per cent last year.
Before the announcement of additional tariff exemptions, Chinese firms bought at least 10 boatloads of US soya beans on Thursday, the country’s most significant purchases since at least June.
The US Department of Agriculture on Friday said private exporters had sold 204,000 tonnes of US soya beans to China, confirming a portion of the sales reported by Reuters.
‘It is hoped that the US will be true to its words and fulfil its promise to create favourable conditions for cooperation in agricultural areas between the two countries,’ the Xinhua report said.
Lower-level US and Chinese officials are expected to meet next week in Washington before talks between senior trade negotiators in early October.
Trump said on Thursday he preferred a comprehensive trade deal with China but did not rule out the possibility of an interim pact.
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