China keeping a frustrated Trump waiting on agriculture

Donald Trump

China's imports from the United States plunged 31.4% in June from a year earlier amid a tariff war with Washington, while exports to the US market sank 7.8%.

Importers again held off on purchases of US cargoes before a large soybean sale to China was announced in late June, a day before a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. China has set a growth target range of 6% to 6.5% for 2019, down from the target of "about 6.5 per cent" set for a year ago.

Trump accused Beijing on Thursday of backsliding on promises to buy more American farm goods.

Trump met his counterpart Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan in June and agreed to revive negotiations, but a trade agreement looks increasingly distant.

A date for face-to-face talks was not agreed during the call, although trade tensions between China and the United States remain high, given there has been little progress to resolve the conflict since the ceasefire was agreed. While China's trade surplus increased, the report was not necessarily good.

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Last week, an influential Chinese agricultural researcher said it's unlikely Beijing will start purchasing large amounts of USA products anytime soon.

"It seems the two sides are arm-wrestling about the basis on which they'll resume talks, as well as when and where", said Zhou Xiaoming, a former commerce ministry official and diplomat.

A steady performance of the domestic economy could provide Beijing with fresh confidence to take a harder stance in talks with Washington, as it would indicate the USA tariffs and the acceleration of the relocation of manufacturing from China to Southeast Asian countries has not derailed growth.

Exports and imports with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt went up by 11.5 percent, 34 percent and 11 percent respectively, GAC data showed. The Chinese government said in June that any purchases must be at a reasonable level, suggested Beijing was becoming more cautious about making big commitments before it sees what Washington offers in exchange. "While a deal makes sense for both sides this year, it's far from guaranteed and could hit many more snags".

Economists say even if a settlement with the U.S.is reached, China's exports this year will be lackluster due to weak global demand, putting pressure on manufacturers that support millions of jobs.

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