China calls off rise in tariffs on U.S. soybeans and pork as trade overtures resume



Gerry Shih | Washington Post

BEIJING — China said Friday it would call off planned tariff hikes on soybeans and pork and “support purchases” as a conciliatory gesture toward the United States days after President Trump delayed tariff increases of his own.

The move, announced by state media, adds to a sense that momentum is building in lower-level negotiations ahead of the next round of high-level meetings in Washington sometime next month.

China will “support domestic companies in the purchase of soybeans and pork from the U.S.,” Chinese state media outlets reported Friday, citing an unnamed official.

Earlier this week, China had eased tariffs on small-ticket items such as alfalfa and lubricant oils. Then, Trump said Wednesday he would delay tariff increases on $250 billion of Chinese goods by two weeks, to Oct. 15. That move was praised by Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng, who talked up hopes that the countries were “moving in the same direction.”

The original date for the U.S. levies, Oct. 1, fell on the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic’s founding, a highly politically sensitive day when Beijing hopes to train international and domestic attention on its celebrations, including a mass military parade in the capital.

China’s latest goodwill gesture on Friday raises the possibility that at least a cease-fire could be reached, even though the concessions offered on soybeans and pork were not particularly new, nor do they address the crux of U.S. grievances.

China has long offered to buy soybeans from farmers who comprise Trump’s voter base to appease the president and narrow the balance of trade. The exclusion on pork tariffs will also help ease pork prices in China at a time when the country is suffering a major shortage of its most popular meat and prices have skyrocketed 50 percent in just two months as a result of an African swine flu outbreak.

The agricultural purchases, however, do not necessarily reflect a sweeping turnaround in U.S.-China relations. Analysts say it’s still unclear whether China would agree to thornier U.S. demands, such as mechanisms to prevent the theft of American intellectual property.

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