Container ship heads into port

The Cape Kortia container ship, left, heads March 5 into the Port of Tacoma in Commencement Bay in Tacoma, Washington. The U.S. trade deficit increased nearly 19 percent in December, pushing the trade imbalance for all of 2018 to widen to a decade-long record of $621 billion. The gap with China on goods widened to an all-time record of $419.2 billion.

Donald Trump complained that China hasn’t increased its purchases of American farm products, a promise he said he had secured at a meeting with the country’s president, Xi Jinping, at the Group of 20 summit last month.

Xi and Trump agreed to restart trade talks between their countries at the meeting, and the U.S. president said he would hold off on imposing additional tariffs on Chinese imports. Trump also claimed Xi had agreed that China would buy large amounts of U.S. agricultural goods.

But data released July 11 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicate that China actually slowed its purchases of American agriculture products following the G-20 meeting. China bought 127,800 metric tons of U.S. soybeans last week, the equivalent of about two cargoes and a 79% reduction from the previous week. Similarly, China bought just 76 tons of American pork, compared to 10,400 tons in June.

Earlier July 11, Chinese Ministry of Commerce Spokesman Gao Feng said the agricultural trade is “an important issue that the two sides need to talk about” but didn’t confirm whether China agreed to buy American agricultural products as part of the agreement reached in Osaka. In the readout of the Xi-Trump meeting published by the state-run Xinhua News Agency, it only mentioned that Trump said he hoped China could increase imports from the U.S., and didn’t say how Xi or the Chinese team responded.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-owned Global Times newspaper tweeted late July 11 that the “achievement of Osaka summit is a China-U.S. consensus, not a unilateral commitment China made to the U.S. Hope the U.S. will lift all sanctions on Huawei soon and respect the principle of equality.”

On Twitter that morning, Trump complained that China hasn’t increased its purchases of American farm products: "Mexico is doing great at the Border, but China is letting us down in that they have not been buying the agricultural products from our great Farmers that they said they would. Hopefully they will start soon!"

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke on the phone with their Chinese counterparts this past week, marking the first high-level contact following the G-20 meeting.

The American officials spoke to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan on July 9, according to an emailed statement from a U.S. government official who declined to be identified. Both sides will continue these talks as appropriate, the official said, without offering more details on the next steps.