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US, China look for ways to end trade dispute

All eyes will be on the U.S. and Chinese presidents when they meet in a couple weeks to see if they can find a pathway out of their current trade war and bring relief for U.S. farm exports.

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All eyes will be on the U.S. and Chinese presidents when they meet in a couple weeks to see if they can find a pathway out of their current trade war and bring relief for U.S. farm exports.

Offers and counter offers on a deal to end trade hostilities are already flying back and forth between the two countries, with a few verbal jabs thrown in about the desired outcomes.

U.S. officials have made it perfectly clear that they seek a better relationship with China, but do not plan to back down until China "changes its ways," according to Vice President Mike Pence. Speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit last week, Pence said "China has taken advantage of the United States for many years. Those days are over," according to a Voice of America broadcast of the event.

For his part, President Donald Trump has been optimistic that China is willing to once again negotiate.

"They sent a list of things that they're willing to do, which was a large list," Trump said recently. "It's a pretty complete list. It's a lot of the things we asked for. There are some things - there were four or five big things left off. I think we'll probably get them, too."

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Trump confirmed that the U.S. sent a list of 142 demands to China and China responded.

"Hopefully we'll make a deal," Trump said. "And if we don't, we're doing very well just the way it is right now. We have tariffs coming in on $250 billion worth of goods."

The goal is for Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to agree on a preliminary "framework" for ending the countries' trade hostilities when they meet in Argentina on the sidelines of the G20 meeting, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad told Agri-Pulse. The meeting is scheduled to start Nov. 30 in Argentina.

"We're trying to be prepared for the G20 meeting, and hopefully out of that can come the beginnings of a resolution for the trade issues," Branstad said after a meeting with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at USDA headquarters last week. "My hope is that we can develop a framework that can lead to an agreement."

Before talking to Perdue, Branstad met with Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss plans for negotiating with China, the ambassador and former Iowa governor said.

"Obviously, we're going to try to do all we can to try to get something resolved on this," he said. "It's critically important."

China, in retaliation to U.S. tariffs, has hit just about every U.S. farm commodity with stiff import taxes. They include a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans which has virtually halted U.S. exports of the oilseed. The U.S. first hit China with steel and aluminum tariffs and then began levying more tariffs to punish the country for intellectual property theft.

Perdue "expressed optimism that President Trump's approach to trade will lead to a resolution of the dispute with China," a USDA spokesman told Agri-Pulse after the meeting with Branstad.

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For farmers who have been hard hit by the tariffs and retaliation, an agreement with one of our largest customers couldn't come soon enough.

Citing the trade war with China, the USDA recently cut its forecast for U.S. soybean exports for the current marketing year by 160 million bushels, to 1.9 billion bushels.

A separate analysis published by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service said U.S. soybean exports to China have virtually halted.

"Since the beginning of the current trade tensions, purchases of U.S. soybeans by China have evaporated, with many previously booked sales being canceled," the Foreign Agricultural Service said in the analysis. "The few quantities that were shipped after the imposition of duties have either been diverted to other markets (Vietnam, Singapore, and South Korea) or are currently languishing off the coast of China, waiting to be discharged."

U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agriculture Negotiator Gregg Doud has been playing down the possibility of any major agreements at the G20 summit.

"My hope is that it leads to another conversation, that leads to another conversation, that we can begin to make some progress here to sit down and talk ...," he told Agri-Pulse.

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