One Year Later, Farmers Are Still Waiting For The Chinese Purchases Trump Promised

One year ago, Trump promised farmers that China had “already started” buying more U.S. agricultural goods. In the year since, Trump’s reckless trade policies have cost American farmers billions of dollars in lost exports. And now, on the eve of Trump signing a “Phase One” trade deal, there’s still no sign that China will deliver on Trump’s promise to buy tens of billions more from U.S. farmers.

One year ago, Trump told farmers that China had “already started” increasing order of U.S. agricultural goods ahead of a trade deal.

Trump: “If we do the right deal with China, you’re talking about massive — they’re already backordering, right?  They’re already back. I told them. I said, ‘you got to start ordering. You’re going to order.’ They’re going to order, and they’ve already started.”

In the year since, annual exports to China plummeted from $25 billion to below $7 billion and remain far below 2017 levels. 

Wall Street Journal: “American farmers took the brunt of the damage, as China largely halted purchases of major U.S. exports like soybeans. Annual U.S. farm exports to China plunged from nearly $25 billion in recent years to below $7 billion at its low point in the 12 months through April 2019.”

Feed & Grain: “Through the first 11 months of 2019, U.S. agricultural exports to China were down nearly $7 billion, or 32%, compared to 2017 levels. This decrease follows a nearly $9-billion-dollar decline over the same 11-month period in 2018. Combined, lost U.S. agricultural export sales to China over the last two years are equivalent to nearly $16 billion.”  

Ahead of officially signing a Phase One trade deal, China still won’t publicly commit to the $50 billion in increased agriculture purchases Trump promised.

Reuters: “China has not confirmed any purchase commitment.” 

CNBC: “Chinese officials have not confirmed an exact figure.”

In the past few days, China raised more doubts about purchasing U.S. farm products by refusing to raise import quotas, making bulk soybean purchases from Brazil, and suspending plans that could boost ethanol.

South China Morning Post: “China will not increase its grain import quotas to meet demands from the United States included in the pending phase one trade deal, a key member of Beijing’s negotiating team said, with analysts suggesting that this makes it ‘more difficult’ to buy the requisite amount of American farm goods.” 

Reuters: “Days before a U.S.-China trade deal is due to be signed, large Chinese purchases of Brazilian soybeans and a pair of unexpected policy moves by Beijing have dimmed U.S. hopes that China would double its imports of American farm products this year.” 

Reuters: “Adding to U.S. concerns about the deal, sources in China told Reuters this week that Beijing has suspended its plan to implement a nationwide gasoline blend containing 10% ethanol this year. The plan had spurred hopes of a jump in U.S. exports of the biofuel to China, as well as shipments of U.S. corn to produce it domestically.”  

Farmers across the country remain skeptical of Trump’s claims about increased Chinese purchases of their products.

North Dakota Farmer: “President Trump said that we’re all going to need to go buy bigger tractors. I don’t think many farmers are going to invest much money until we see that this is a done deal and a long-term deal.”  

Nebraska Farmer: “Until we actually see some stuff in writing or agreed to, that’s when I’ll have the confirmation.”