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Censky: China Will Buy More U.S. Products

by Steve Grinczel

Published: Friday, August 14, 2020

The diplomatic saber-rattling going on between the United States and China has to be a source of concern for Michiana farmers whose markets are impacted by the strained relationship between the world's two largest economies.

In response to China's continued flouting of trade rules and human rights, restricting Hong Kong's independence and intentions to militarize the South China Sea, the U.S. shut down the Chinese consulate in Houston. China countered by closing the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

And last week there was week there was the dust-up over Chinese-owned app TikTok.

It's reasonable for producers and processors to wonder if the U.S.-China trade agreement signed in January is vulnerable to such tit-for-tat sparring.

USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky, who was the keynote speaker at last week's American Soybean Assn.'s 100th anniversary celebration at the Soyland Farm in Camden, Ind., gave assurances that the diplomatic posturing and the agricultural trade agreement are separate issues.

"China has a big commitment to make (happen)," Censky said. "They committed to purchase $36.5 billion worth of U.S. agriculture commodities in calendar year '20. They have been stepping up their purchases. They've been purchasing a lot of soy, corn, pork, beef, poultry."

Nevertheless, the USDA has made it clear that China needs to increase its spending on American imports.

"If they're going to meet that $36.5 billion mark, they're going to have to step it up even more, so we're monitoring that very closely," Censky said.

USDA is operating somewhat independently of the State Department when it comes to China trade.

"Certainly, there are tensions that exist," Censky said. "But I think so far both the United States and China have been working to live up to, and compartmentalize that, and say we can disagree (but) want to make sure that there's not spying (and) stealing of intellectual property.

"We've been able to set aside differences that we have about Hong Kong and what's going on there or the treatment of the Uighurs (Muslim minorities). We're expressing in the strongest possible terms and taking action on those things but at the same time keeping the Phase 1 trade agreement in place."

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