In news that Donald Trump will almost surely tout as “evidence” to support the notion that Beijing is intent on living up to its supposed commitments under the “Phase One” trade deal between the world’s two largest economies, China’s imports of US soybeans hit 2.6 million tons in November.
That is the most since March of 2018, the month when Trump started to ramp up the trade war in earnest, and two months before things really started to spiral with the Chinese.
November’s figure is more than double October’s total.
As you can see, China’s imports of US soybeans dropped to zero (or close to it) this time last year, when Trump and Xi were gearing up for talks in Buenos Aires.
China has been making so-called “goodwill” purchases of US farm products over the past three months in an effort to placate the White House. Some of those purchases were carried out under a waivers regime. The waivers are generally seen as impractical when it comes to the kind of large purchases ($40 billion to $50 billion annually) Trump wants to see under the trade agreement.
As part of the interim deal struck earlier this month, the US did cut the tariff rate on $112 billion in Chinese goods in half, but until Trump lifts more levies on China, Beijing is unlikely to lift its own retaliatory measures which make the waivers necessary in the first place.
On Wednesday, China said it’s reviewing exemption applications for purchases of US goods up to $60 billion. Earlier this month, Beijing announced it was considering new exemptions. A list of the covered products will be made public at an “appropriate time”, the General Administration of Customs said.
On Monday, China announced tariff cuts for 2020 covering nearly 20% of total imports. The move was aimed at bolstering Xi’s case to the international community that the country is on track with plans to gradually open the economy.