Trump trade aid payment situation unclear
December 17, 2018
Whether President Donald Trump will follow through on his promise to make a second round of trade aid payments – formally Market Facilitation Payments – to farmers before the end of 2018 remained unclear Sunday following additional Chinese soybean purchases on Friday and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney's elevation to White House chief of staff.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Steve Censky both said last week that OMB was resisting the second round of payments in hopes that increased Chinese purchases would make them necessary. Perdue said Thursday that Mulvaney "is always looking to hold on to money." Censky said the same day in Iowa that USDA is "arm wrestling" with OMB over the Market Facilitation Program and its costs, DTN/The Progressive Farmer reported.
Perdue told reporters on Thursday that he would meet with Mulvaney on Friday. House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said that Perdue would meet with the president to discuss the payments.
On Friday, the Agriculture Department's Foreign Agricultural Service announced that private exporters had reported sales of 300,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to China during the 2018-19 marketing year. That announcement followed a statement from FAS Thursday that private exporters had reported sales of 1.13 million tons of soybeans to China.
Meanwhile, Trump announced late Friday that Mulvaney would become the acting White House chief of staff.
USDA did not issue a statement on White House meetings on Friday.
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On Sunday, the Agriculture Department Office of Communications did not respond to an email asking whether Perdue's scheduled meeting had taken place or whether there had been any resolution about the issue.
Before this week's soybean sales, U.S. exporters had sold only about 523,000 tons of the commodity to China for delivery in the 2018-19 marketing year, which began Sept. 1, Politico reported.
In contrast, at this same point last year, U.S. exporters had sold 21.5 million tons of soybeans to China for delivery in 2017-18, Politico added. Total U.S. soybean exports to China in 2017-18 were 27.7 million tons, down from 36.2 million in 2016-17 — before Trump began his tariff campaign, Politico said.
China announced Friday that on Jan. 1 it will remove the 25 perceTrant tariff imposed on vehicles in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, Bloomberg reported.
China also may buy at least 3 million metric tons of American corn, Washington Trade Daily reported.
Trump tweeted Friday, "China just announced that their economy is growing much slower than anticipated because of our Trade War with them. They have just suspended U.S. Tariff Hikes. U.S. is doing very well. China wants to make a big and very comprehensive deal. It could happen, and rather soon!"