China plans soybean, beef tariffs

Industry representatives say the tariffs will result in 'financial pain' for farmers.

China _plans _soybean _beef _tariffs _1_636584412446753263

China is the biggest international destination for U.S. soybeans, importing 1.2 billion bushels. That includes more than $3 billion worth just from Illinois. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)

By Deana Stroisch

China announced plans Wednesday to tax $50 billion worth of U.S. imports, including soybeans and beef – the latest in an escalating war between the two countries.

The announcement came the day after the United States Trade Representative released a list of at least $50 billion worth of Chinese imports eyed for tariffs – covering industries such as aerospace, information and communication technology, robotics and machinery. USTR will accept public comment on the proposed tariffs. A public hearing will be held in May.

It was the latest back-and-forth of threatened tariffs, which have also included plans for the U.S. to tax Chinese steel and aluminum, and China to tax U.S. pork, along with various fruits and nuts. Markets responded quickly.

In a tweet, President Donald Trump insisted: “We are not in a trade war with China.”

Farmers have much at stake, according to agriculture groups. China purchases 61 percent of total U.S. soybean exports – more than 30 percent of overall U.S. soybean production. Meanwhile, agriculture has a $21 billion trade surplus.

“If we’re not in a trade war, we’re pretty close to a trade war,” said Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau’s director of national legislation and policy development. “There’s going to be some financial pain, clearly. There will be an erosion in market share, and a challenge to get that market back after it’s over, and who knows how long that’s going to be.

“We entered this year just hoping to just be able to stay in NAFTA. Now we’re still hoping to stay in NAFTA and get out of this trade war as fast as we can.”

IFB opposes any trade policy that reduces agricultural exports. “This will clearly reduce agricultural exports,” Nielsen said.

American Soybean Association President John Heisdorffer said the proposed tariff on soybeans will have a “devastating effect on every soybean farmer in America.”

“There is still time to reverse this damage, and the administration can still deliver for farmers by withdrawing the tariffs that caused this retaliation,” Heisdorffer said. “China has said that its 25 percent tariff will only go into effect based on the course of action the administration takes. We call on President Trump to engage the Chinese in a constructive manner – not a punitive one – and achieve a positive result for soybean farmers.”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, called Illinois farmers “the latest victims of President Trump’s temper.”

“Illinois is our nation’s largest producer of soybeans, and a top producer of pork, and will feel China's retaliation to threats of a trade war more than most,” Durbin said. “America cannot move forward in a blizzard of tweets and wild threats from this president.”

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