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Asia Minute: U.S. China Trade Talks: Watch the Farmers

United Soybean Board
CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Stalled trade talks between the United States and China will resume next week in Shanghai. The Treasury Secretary and the U.S. Trade Representative are heading to China, but one group to watch back home are American farmers.

The United States and China still have some broad differences on trade. There’s the topic of intellectual property rights, also technology transfer, and access to markets.

These are broad areas that have been at issue for a very long time.

There’s also the question of how any agreement would be enforced.

But while these negotiations have stretched over many months, one group that continues to suffer the fallout is U.S. farmers. Two months ago, a Purdue University survey of sentiment among farmers hit its lowest point in nearly three years — tumbling by nearly a third since the start of the year. The impact of Chinese retaliation on tariff moves by the U.S. has been a big factor.

One example: soybean exports.

According to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, two years ago, U.S. farmers sent more than 12-billion dollars’ worth of soybeans to China. Last year that fell by nearly three-quarters — to a little more than 3-billion dollars.

But if the past is any guide to what may happen as the latest round of trade talks resume, U.S. farmers could benefit from any early progress.

Compared to complicated issues like financial support of state-owned enterprises, a large purchase of U.S. farm goods would be easier for the Chinese to make — and for the Trump Administration to celebrate.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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