The U.S.’ chief agricultural trade negotiator told a group of farmers and industry officials on Thursday that President Donald Trump intends to put his proposed $50 billion tariff on Chinese goods into effect soon.
Gregg Doud, the U.S. Trade Representative’s chief agricultural negotiator, made the comments with Greg Ibach, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s marketing undersecretary, during a meeting at the Couser Cattle Company just north of Nevada before heading to the World Pork Expo in Des Moines.
“What you’re going to see is the president of the United States announce here any day — as the situation progresses — we’re going to impose tariffs, up to potentially $50 billion, against a very specific set of high-tech industries in China,” he said.
Trump first proposed the tariffs on Chinese imports in April. China responded by proposing an equal amount on tariffs on a range of U.S. products, including beef, corn and soybeans. That worried soybean producers in particular, as China purchases approximately one out of every three soybeans grown in the U.S.
The tariffs were not put into effect immediately, but world agricultural markets shifted in response and left U.S. producers wondering what would happen if a trade war broke out as they struggle with plummeting farm profits.
Doud, who went to China over the weekend with other U.S. trade representatives, said the tariffs are designed to punish China’s alleged intellectual property theft from U.S. tech companies trying to enter their markets.
“Agriculture has traditionally been the tip of the spear on these kinds of issues; that’s probably going to continue to be the case,” he said. “For our part, and my part in discussing these with my boss, is to say the best thing we can do in this environment is to play offense and work with other countries to expand tradition opportunities.”
The announcement comes at a time of rising global trade tensions between the U.S. and several other countries. Along with the tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump placed tariffs on steel and aluminum coming from Mexico, Canada and European Union members last week, drawing outrage and retaliatory tariffs from those countries.
The tariffs will likely take center stage at the G7 summit in Quebec this weekend at the annual meeting between the leaders of the seven largest economies in the world.
The administration has defended the tariffs as necessary to protect U.S. industry from unfair trade practices, and to reduce trade deficits.
Doud acknowledged farmers’ fears about what those tariffs could mean for market access, and asked for their patience while the administration pursues its agenda.
“What I think the president is asking of all of us right now, farmers, is to hang with him, because the rules that were established over time aren’t working, and we need to say, ‘this is what we want to do and these are the rules we want to follow — we want to re-balance it,’” he said.
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, who was also present at the event, said the roundtable shows federal officials are paying attention to local producers, and hope they try to minimize the effects of any trade action on the farm economy.
“What I hear them saying, and what I certainly heard producers say to these officials, is don’t do it in a way that results in tariffs that have a negative impact on our markets,” he said. “That’s concerning to folks, and it should be, but the reality is that there are issues that need to be dealt with.”