Coronavirus continues to loom over China deal implementation



Adam Behsudi | POLITICO

Trump seemingly confirmed on Twitter the reality his administration has shied away from for weeks: China could fall short of its 2020 commitment to buy about $40 billion worth of U.S. farm goods because of slackening domestic demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump tweeted Friday that the USDA would make more subsidy payments to farmers if his trade deal with China and the USMCA don’t quickly deliver expected exports. Beijing acknowledged the possibility the epidemic could affect its compliance weeks ago, but administration officials have sounded optimistic that the implementation of the China deal is going as planned.

Neither Chief U.S. Agricultural Negotiator Gregg Doud nor USDA Undersecretary Ted McKinney directly ruled out that China could fail to buy U.S. goods during a Friday afternoon session at the department’s annual outlook conference. But both officials extolled the benefits of the deal and expressed confidence in China’s ability to follow through on both the purchases and a number of market-opening commitments.

“Clearly, things have slowed down,” McKinney said, calling the impact of the illness “a wild card.” But he also noted that much of what China has committed to buy was expected to be purchased and shipped “later in the year anyway.”

USDA will use shipping and inspection data to keep tabs on sales on a more timely basis than the Commerce Department’s trade report, which has a two-month lag, he added.

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