With expectations that the coronavirus will eventually recede, U.S. farm exports will catapult to a near-record $152 billion during the fiscal year that started on Oct. 1, said the USDA on Monday. China was forecast to import a record $27 billion in fiscal 2021, ending the agricultural …
Partly because food is indispensable, agricultural trade has been remarkably robust despite the disruptions of the pandemic, said Ohio State professor Ian Sheldon during the university's annual agricultural outlook conference. Inventories of key staples are at high levels worldwide so "there's no reason why a health crisis turns into a global food crisis," he said.
While China may not meet the first-year target under the "phase one" trade agreement, it is buying huge amounts of U.S. food, agriculture, and seafood products that could total $31 billion over 12 months, said Iowa State economist Wendong Zhang at a farm conference on Thursday. Neither Zhang nor Ohio State professor Ian Sheldon said they expected the Biden administration to roll back U.S. tariffs on China in the near term.
The United States suspended $817 million in trade preferences granted to Thailand "based on its lack of sufficient progress [in] providing the United States with equitable and reasonable market access for pork products," said the Office of the U.S. trade representative on Sunday. Trade representative Robert Lighthizer said when countries fail to meet the criteria to participate in the General System of Preferences, "we will take action by limiting their preferential duty-free access to the U.S. market."
The "phase one" agreement that de-escalated the Sino-U.S. trade war is not paying off in massive sales of U.S. products, including food and agricultural exports, to China or in the long-term reform of Chinese trade practices, said Chad Brown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "(President) Trump's trade war has failed to address what really ails the U.S.-China trade relationship," wrote Brown in a blog. "It is time for a new approach."
The Trump administration "lost the trade war" with China, said Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, on Wednesday during a debate with Vice President Mike Pence, who faulted her for voting against the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. It was the first time agriculture was mentioned in the pre-election debates.
Five weeks after saying he was hopeful China would import $36.6 billion of U.S. food, agricultural and seafood products this year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is less certain the target will be met. A spate of sales to China during August and September has raised hopes in farm country that the goal, set in the "phase one" trade agreement, would be met despite a slow start.
The WTO may need reform, but there is no question the United States should be part of the international body, said five dozen farm and agribusiness groups in a letter to the Trump administration. "As long as exports are important to U.S. agriculture, WTO membership will be essential as well," said the groups.
With its new offer of $14 billion in coronavirus relief, the Trump administration could spend $50 billion — quadruple the cost of the auto industry bailout — in less than three years to buffer the impact of trade war and pandemic on agriculture. Farm groups welcomed the second round of coronavirus assistance while critics said it was "old-fashioned vote-buying" ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
China has "really stepped up" its purchases of U.S. farm exports in recent weeks, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Monday, and he is hopeful of the sales bonanza promised in the "phase one" agreement that de-escalated the Sino-US trade war. "They are saying... the right things about their desire to fulfill their commitment. I'm hopeful they will."