WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump approved on Thursday a second aid package for US farmers, this one for $16 billion, with the aim of alleviating the effects of his trade war with China.
“We will ensure our farmers get the relief they need and very, very quickly,” Trump said at a meeting with agricultural producers at the White House.
“The farmers have been attacked by China,” Trump said. “But the $16 billion of funds will ... make clear that no country has veto on America’s economic and national security.”
A few hours earlier, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in an interview with Fox News that Trump had approved the aid package, adding that the funds will be funneled to farmers who have been hurt by China’s tariff reprisals
In 2018, the US had announced a similar assistance program for $12 billion for the agriculture and livestock sector.
According to Perdue, part of the $16 billion will be used to help farmers access other markets and, if China decides not to buy US produce then farmers will simply sell their products to other countries.
Among those markets, Perdue listed India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.
As an example of the effects of the trade war, US soybean exports to China have plunged by more than 80 percent this past year as Beijing has switched to buying the grain from Brazil and Argentina.
The trade war between Washington and Beijing heated up in early May, when the US increased tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on more than 5,000 Chinese import products valued at some $200 billion per year.
Trump, who has been critical of Beijing’s negotiating stance and tactics, also threatened to impose similar tariffs on the rest of China’s exports to the US, valued at some $325 billion, if Beijing proves unwilling to strike a trade deal.
The president said on Thursday that he is “optimistic” that he will be able to come to a trade arrangement with China to halt the tit-for-tat tariff hikes and the trade war in general, and he noted that he is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, within a month.
In reprisal for the recent measures announced by Trump, China is planning to impose tariffs of 25 percent on $60 billion worth of US imports on June 1.
In 2018, the US exported good valued at $120 billion to China while US imports from the Asian giant totaled some $540 billion.