The United States will press China to live up to its commitments in the "phase one" agreement, said U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai on Monday in unveiling the Biden administration's "strategic vision for re-aligning trade policies toward China." During a speech at a Washington think tank, Tai said agricultural trade was an "unpredictable sector" given Chinese willingness to intervene in the market.
Speaking to a farm conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said China's adherence to its commitment to buy mammoth quantities of U.S. farm exports will be a test of the Asian nation's place in global relations. While China has buoyed commodity prices with its purchases, it is not on track to meet the goal of importing $43.6 billion worth of U.S. food, agricultural, and seafood products by the end of December.
When crop insurance indemnities and unemployment benefits are counted, the government sent $57.7 billion to farm operations and farm households in 2020, while the pandemic sent the U.S. economy into recession, said a working paper by USDA economists. It was the highest estimate yet of federal assistance to farmers last year and the most inclusive.
Ag exports, a key part of U.S. farm revenue, are expected to generate 36 cents of every $1 in cash income this year, thanks to high commodity prices as the world recovers its appetite and the pandemic recedes. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the country ought to diversify its sales to a broader range of markets.
By a wide margin, soybeans are the most valuable U.S. farm export, accounting for 18 cents of every $1 in sales during calendar 2020, said the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service on Wednesday.
Although China has yet to fulfill its "phase one" promises of mammoth purchases of U.S. farm exports, "the fact is, they need us," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilscak during a digital news conference. He added that, with China back in the U.S. market, commodity prices are high enough that, "I'm not sure there's necessarily a need for any trade-related assistance [to farmers] at this point."
The world's most populous country is already its largest meat-importing nation and "looks like it's poised to play a major role in meat markets in the future," said USDA senior economist Fred Gale on Thursday. China's imports of beef, pork, and poultry are projected by the USDA to grow 29 percent in the coming decade.
China bought a mammoth 5.85 tonnes of American-grown corn last week, including 2.108 million tonnes on the same day that the White House said the "phase one agreement" that de-escalated the trade war was under review. "The national security team, the newly confirmed secretary of state, President Biden are all reviewing all aspects of our national security approach, including certainly our relationship with China," said press secretary Jen Psaki.
China failed to meet its "phase one" target for imports of U.S. food, agriculture, and seafood products despite a surge in purchases that began late last summer, said the Peterson Institute for International Economics on Thursday.
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.