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Trump hails 'patriotic farmers' as tariffs bite

2019-05-15 HKT 11:08
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  • US farmers, who are major exporters of pork and soya to China, will be  a crucial factor in the next presidential election. Image: Shutterstock
    US farmers, who are major exporters of pork and soya to China, will be a crucial factor in the next presidential election. Image: Shutterstock
President Donald Trump praised "patriotic farmers" for their support over the ongoing trade war with China, as signs of frustration mounted in the rural sector that was already suffering low prices and falling income.

US farmers who are major exporters of pork and soya, are caught in the middle of the ongoing punitive tariff spat.

But farmers along with the industries that support them, are also key voters. So with 18 months to go before the presidential election, Trump is hoping to put them at ease and keep their support.

"Our great Patriot Farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what is happening now," Trump said overnight on Tuesday on Twitter.

He said he hoped China would "do us the honour" of continuing to buy US farm exports but even if they do not, the government "will be making up the difference" by buying crops to prop up prices.

The tweets came a day after China announced it was raising tariffs on US$60 billion in US agricultural and manufactured goods to retaliate for Trump's decision last week to raise tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese merchandise.

Rural areas are generally more conservative and favourable to Trump, but they have been shaken by the conflict that has brought soy bean exports to China in particular to a screeching halt.

Last year's exports fell by 75 percent from 2017, according to Commerce Department figures.

The American Soyabean Association says it generally supports the Trump administration's trade objectives, just not the means used to reach them.

Soy farmers are "frustrated" that Chinese and US negotiators have been unable to strike a bargain and worry their entire business is in danger.

Many fear their Chinese customers, who once bought about a third of the US soya crop, may soon buy even more from Brazil instead.

In his Tuesday tweets, Trump said the "massive tariffs" currently in place will pay for government bailouts for suffering farms.

The National Pork Producer's Council said last week it "welcomes the offer of assistance from President Trump".

"We stand ready to work with the USDA to facilitate US pork exports as food aid to a number of nations," NPCC President David Herring said in a statement.

Exports now account for 26 percent of all US pork production, of which a large share is normally shipped to China.

Trump on Tuesday called the US-China trade war a "little squabble" and predicted ultimate victory. "We always win. We always win," he said. (AFP)