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China offered to buy $70 billion in US ag and energy products to ward off Trump's tariffs

Farmer Scott Harper walks through a soybean field in Wheatfield, Ind., in July 2014. Selling more commodities like soybeans to the Chinese would make U.S. farmers happy, and reduce the trade deficit, but would not accomplish much more than that. Daniel Acker / copyright 2018 The New York Times

China has offered to buy close to $70 billion in U.S. agriculture and energy products in the first year of a package meant to ward off U.S. tariffs, a person briefed on the talks said.

The offer was made in talks in Beijing over the weekend with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, part of sensitive trade negotiations that could force President Donald Trump to make a tough decision about accepting this proposal or pushing for more concessions.

The package would include increased purchases of U.S. soybeans, corn and other agricultural goods. In addition, China would buy more U.S. crude oil and natural gas exports to quench its thirst for energy.

The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The purchases of more crude oil and natural gas would be unlikely to increase total U.S. exports of the fuels, as they would likely divert U.S. exports previously intended for other destinations. The United States only recently started exporting oil and gas, thanks to the increased exploitation of shale gas and shale oil. However, the United States remains a large net importer of petroleum.

After the talks in Beijing, the Chinese negotiating team led by Vice Premier Liu He issued a statement saying "the two sides have had good communication in various areas such as agriculture and energy, and have made positive and concrete progress while relevant details are yet to be confirmed by both sides."

The White House has said that it might move ahead with the imposition of tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods around the middle of this month if a broad agreement to slash the $375 billion trade deficit isn't reached.

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