AMELIA ISLAND, FLA. — Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue confirmed that China’s trade negotiators “have laid on the table some very attractive numbers” regarding prospective purchases of U.S. agricultural products during ongoing trade talks with the United States.
“But we are still in the negotiation phase, and I don’t want to raise expectations if we’re not able to come to an agreement,” he said. Mr. Perdue made this comment on March 18 during a meeting with the press following his address delivered to members of the National Grain and Feed Association during its 123rd annual meeting, which was held in Amelia Island.
Mr. Perdue did indicate, though, that in addition to soybeans, China said it would purchase large volumes of U.S. cereal grains and meat, including poultry.
Mr. Perdue was asked in view of a huge market for imported agricultural products in China (China imports about $124 billion in food products a year, and before the trade dispute with the United States, U.S. farm products accounted for about $20 billion of the total), if the United States should significantly increase its agricultural exports to China through an agreement, what this would mean in terms of U.S. exports to other markets.
“I have asked the rhetorical question of U.S. producers, 'Has China become too dependent on us, or have we become too dependent on China?'” Mr. Perdue said.
In the case of soybeans, U.S. producers may have become overly dependent on China.
Mr. Perdue said the focus at the U.S.D.A. is to significantly broaden U.S. farmers’ customer base throughout Asia and the rest of the world.
“While we’re working to broaden that base, we certainly would welcome more demand from China,” he added.
Mr. Perdue also commented on the administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020. While the president’s budget is viewed as a starting point in the debate over priorities, it is Congress that ultimately passes a budget.
“I am a whatever it takes kind of guy,” Mr. Perdue said. “I’m going to take whatever money we receive from Congress and use it in the best way possible for U.S. agriculture.”
At the same time, Mr. Perdue lamented the difficulties in long-term budget planning because of political discord in government.