White House's Kudlow hopeful on US-China trade talks, agriculture buys

Lighthizer, Mnuchin urge Beijing to buy more US agricultural products

Reuters July 24, 2019
Lighthizer, Mnuchin urge Beijing to buy more US agricultural products. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON: White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow called it a good sign that top US officials would be traveling to China to discuss reviving stalled trade talks, and said he expected Beijing to start buying US agricultural products soon.

In recent phone calls with Chinese negotiators, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had emphasised the need for Beijing to make good on its pledge to buy more US agricultural products.

"As I read it, it looks like there will be a trip to China and we expect, we hope strongly that China will very soon start buying agriculture products, firstly as part of an overall deal and secondly, as a goodwill gesture," Kudlow told reporters.

Lighthizer and senior US officials will travel to Shanghai on Monday, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources. Lighthizer's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

China and the United States, the world's two largest economies, are trying to kick-start stalled negotiations aimed at ending a year-long trade war marked by tit-for-tat tariffs.

US President Donald Trump agreed during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month to hold off on imposing tariffs on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports while talks resumed. Kudlow said the Chinese agriculture purchases expected in return had not occurred but that could change soon.

"We haven't had a guarantee of that, but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a lot of positive news on that coming up," Kudlow said. "I'm going to strike a note of hopefulness."

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross downplayed the prospect, however. Asked whether China was moving towards buying more agricultural goods, Ross told Bloomberg TV, "I'm not aware that the gate has opened to any significant degree."

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Tuesday the US government will pay a minimum of $15 per acre to farmers hurt by the trade war with China under a $16-billion aid package to be unveiled before the end of the week.

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