White House delays new farm aid payments on China trade hopes
The White House is delaying additional payments from a $12 billion aid package for farmers stung by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China because it expects Beijing to resume buying US soybeans, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The move comes despite a lack of evidence in agricultural markets of any return by China to the US soy market. China last year purchased about 60pc of US soybean exports, but it has not inked any new soybean deals since Beijing imposed tariffs on US supplies in July.
Trump told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday that discussions to resolve U.S. trade disputes with Beijing were taking place by telephone, and that China was “just starting” to buy “tremendous amounts” of US soybeans.
The Office of Management and Budget at the White House is now holding up approval of the second and final tranche of aid payments Trump had promised farmers stung by the trade disputes due to concern over the cost of the program, and because it wants to see if the trade issues with China are resolved, the three sources told Reuters.
The sources asked not to be named because the matter had not yet been made public.
“It has been no secret that OMB has not been terribly excited about the trade aid package,” one of the sources said. The source added, however, that the payments will likely eventually be approved after some “back and forth.”
The US Department of Agriculture in July had authorized up to $12 billion in aid for farmers and ranchers hit by the fallout from Trump’s escalating trade war with China and the agency outlined payments for the first half last August.
An announcement on the second tranche had been expected in early December. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on December 3 that OMB was deliberating on the second round of trade aid, and that it could be outlined by the end of that week.