U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on May 12 that if China engages in retaliatory measures against new U.S. tariffs, such as imposing new tariffs on U.S. goods, within two or three days he will submit a plan for the U.S. government to boost its purchases of domestic farm products. Perdue indicated his intention to mitigate the impact a decline in exports to China will have on American farmers and to keep China in check with a new support measure. He also said, “I hope China will continue negotiations and will not reverse what has been agreed on,” expressing expectations for continued talks.
Perdue sat down for an interview with The Nikkei in Niigata City, where he was visiting to attend the Group of 20 farm ministers’ meeting. On May 10 the U.S. government raised punitive tariffs on $200 billion (approx. 22 trillion yen) worth of Chinese goods from 10% to 25%, and China announced that it will take retaliatory measures.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter the same day that the U.S. government will buy more agricultural products from American farmers than China did and use them for humanitarian assistance. The new plan to aid American farmers is believed to be intended to retain the backing of agricultural workers ahead of the presidential election in 2020.
Perdue, who has already been instructed by the president to examine the plan, said, “If China chooses to retaliate, we’ll very swiftly, or maybe within a few days to a couple of weeks, submit a plan for the president to announce the measure to the agriculture industry.”
The agriculture secretary also commented on the size of the additional purchase by saying: “The president is ready to provide the necessary support to the agriculture industry. He has not decided the size of the purchase.”
Perdue explained, “The president is trying to show farmers that he will provide support for any loss resulting from China’s boycott of American farm products.” He added that the government “will be careful not to disrupt the global market and regional supply networks” when using the farm products it will purchase for humanitarian assistance.
At the same time, he also said: “I don’t know whether or not China will retaliate. But I hope it won’t,” indicating his expectations for an early agreement. He added, “Our purpose is to go beyond tariffs and reach the (settlement of the) issue of (China’s) unfair trade practices we’ve confirmed” through future talks.
Regarding the U.S.’s trade negotiations over agricultural products with Japan, Perdue pointed out that the effectuation of Japan’s Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement “is disadvantageous to American producers and agricultural and livestock farmers.” He emphasized, “American consumers are Japan’s good customers and they simply want reciprocal treatment.”
He underscored that U.S. agricultural production exceeds domestic demand and “trade is extremely important to producers.” He also said, “We can promptly reach an agreement with Japan based on our long security and trade relationships.”