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China Cancels U.S. Farm Visits Touted as ‘Goodwill’ Trip

Mario Parker
China Cancels U.S. Farm Visits Touted as ‘Goodwill’ Trip

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In a quick change of events, China canceled a planned visit to farms in the U.S. heartland -- a trip touted by the Trump administration as a building of “goodwill.”

The Montana Farm Bureau Federation was told by the Chinese embassy that the delegation “had an adjustment of their agenda” and they’re headed back to China earlier than planned, Rebecca Colnar, a spokeswoman for the Montana bureau, said Friday. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture also said Friday that planned visits were canceled.

U.S. equities declined after the news, and trade-sensitive commodities like soybeans and hogs also took a hit. Gold prices climbed amid demand for a haven.

The cancellations were the last step in a hasty unraveling of the planned visits. U.S. Agriculture Department Secretary Sonny Perdue said Thursday that China was planning to visit American farms next week amid a gesture of “goodwill.” The Montana group confirmed the plans before saying within hours later Thursday that the trip was tentative.

The farm news added to negative sentiment over trade on Friday after President Donald Trump said he doesn’t want to make a partial trade deal with China and that voters won’t punish him for the ongoing trade war in his 2020 bid for re-election.

U.S. farming has become a main target of the more than year-long trade war as Beijing took shots against Donald Trump’s rural base. China’s retaliatory tariffs on everything from American apricots to soybeans crimped demand at a time when producers have also suffered from extreme weather. Now as the nations inch toward a trade deal, farming is once again taking center stage, but this time as an indicator for potential progress.

The Asian country said last week it was encouraging purchases of American agriculture and was excluding commodities like soy and pork from extra tariffs. U.S. soybean export sales jumped to a six-month high last week, boosted by Chinese demand, and government data has signaled more buying in recent days.

Perdue said Thursday he “doesn’t know” whether China will make more purchases of U.S. farm goods next week.

(Adds Nebraska in second paragraph, market moves in third.)

--With assistance from Michael Hirtzer and Mike Dorning.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mario Parker in Chicago at mparker22@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Attwood at jattwood3@bloomberg.net, Millie Munshi, Reg Gale

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