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Update on China-U.S. trade talks, confusion over soybean purchasesqrcode

Feb. 4, 2019

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Feb. 4, 2019
After two days of high-stakes trade talks ended last Thursday in Washington, China apparently surprised U.S. officials by announcing it would buy another 5 million metric tons of American soybeans. The commitment means China will significantly ramp up its U.S. soy purchases after several medium-size sales in December - though less significantly than indicated by initial reports that China would buy 5 million tons per day.

Crunching the numbers: In October 2017, a peak sales month, the U.S. exported 5.9 million metric tons to China, according to USDA data.

 Still, there's much more catching up to do after the massive dip in soybean sales in the current 2018-19 marketing year, which started Sept. 1. For comparison, U.S. soybean exports to China totaled 27.7 million tons in the 2017-18 marketing year, and 36.2 million in 2016-17, driven by the peak fall months.

Timeline: It's unclear how quickly China will buy the additional 5 million tons. A White House aide told our colleagues it wouldn't necessarily be a single purchase. It's also unclear whether the millions of purchases China made in December, after the 90-day trade truce was called, are part of that buy.

Trump's take: "That's going to make our farmers very happy," President Donald Trump said following the meetings. "That's a lot of soybeans. That's really nice."

 Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who led the delegation from Beijing, added that "Chinese people like U.S. farmers very much," according to a White House transcript.

 Beyond the soybean purchases, the trade talks yielded... another round of discussions! Next up, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to travel to China in mid-February to continue talks.

Bottom line: Trump said there wouldn't be any final agreement until he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but he estimated that a "very comprehensive deal" is within reach. Trump also reiterated that March 1 remains a "hard deadline."

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