Chinese trade negotiators cancel US farm visit, cut trip short

Finance

Chinese trade negotiators had a sudden change of plans Friday, canceling a visit to meet U.S. farmers after they wrapped up trade talks in Washington this week.

The Chinese delegation has changed its travel schedule and is headed back to China earlier than planned, according to Nicole Rolf, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation’s director of national affairs. There was no explanation as to why they were cutting their trip short, Rolf said.

Nebraska department of agriculture also said the Chinese officials called off a visit to farms in Nebraska.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue confirmed just Thursday the meetings were in the works as a way for China to build goodwill with American farmers.

The Chinese delegation, led by Vice Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs Han Jun, had planned follow-on visits to Bozeman, Montana, and Omaha, Nebraska, CNBC previously reported.

The cancellation put a damper on hopes that China would restart purchasing U.S. agricultural goods, which it had halted in April in retaliation against President Donald Trump’s tariffs.

China made up $5.9 billion in U.S. farm product exports in 2018, according to the U.S. Census. It’s the world’s top buyer of soybeans and purchased roughly 60% of U.S. soybean exports last year.

Tensions between the U.S. and China had eased ahead of the low-level trade talks this week as Trump granted tariff exemptions to many Chinese products and China also said it will exempt U.S. agricultural products and other 16 types of U.S. goods from additional tariffs.

Trump also decided to delay increasing tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15 as a “gesture of good will” to China. China also said its domestic companies have made inquiries about prices of American farm goods.

— CNBC’s Kayla Tausche contributed reporting.

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