- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — President Trump on Monday told U.S. farmers hard hit by the trade war with China that they would come out on the winning end of new trade deals.

Speaking at the 100th annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Foundation, Mr. Trump promised a “tremendous impact” from the deals.

“We’re doing trade deals that are going to get you so much business, you won’t believe it. A lot of great things are going to happen,” Mr. Trump told a huge crowd at the New Orleans Convention Center.

Farm and rural voters were key to Mr. Trump’s 2016 election victory, but their allegiance has been tested by trade disputes.

In retaliation against Trump administration tariffs, Beijing targeted U.S. agriculture, in particular its massive soybean exports, to punish Mr. Trump’s base.

The administration is providing up to $12 billion in assistance for farmers hurt in the China trade war, both as relief for lost crops or sales and for help finding alternative markets.

While Mr. Trump commented on trade and agriculture issues, the speech was dominated by his take on the partial government shutdown over border security.

“When it comes to keeping the American people safe, I will never back down. I didn’t want this fight,” he told the farmers, who also have been hit by the suspension of some FDA inspections.

Mr. Trump promised a business boost for farmers in the near future from a China deal still being negotiated and the new U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement that is awaiting approval from Congress.

He said it will be “very tough” for Congress not to approve the USMCA, despite early opposition from Democrats.

“You’re going to be doing business with Canada. You’re going to be doing business with places that are very, very difficult to do business,” he said.

At the opening of the convention Sunday, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said farmers were glad to see 2018 in the rear view mirror but still believed in Mr. Trump’s tough trade stance.

“We’re going to hang with him and we encouraged him to get a fast solution to it,” he said.

U.S. and Chinese officials spent three days in Beijing last week working on the deal.

The American team said they pushed China to make good on pledges to significantly increase purchases of U.S. agriculture, energy and manufacturing goods.

The commitment was part of a trade truce Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping struck during a dinner meeting Dec. 1 in Argentina.

As part of the temporary truce, Mr. Trump put on hold a steep increase in tariffs on Chinese goods until March 2. The two sides are now laboring for a breakthrough before the March deadline.

Mr. Trump began imposing tariffs to force China into trade talks. He wants Beijing to end unfair trade practices, including dropping barriers to U.S. companies doing business in China and its theft of American intellectual property.

Mr. Trump also wants to reduce America’s huge annual trade deficit with China.

China’s 2018 trade surplus with the U.S. surged to a record $323.3 billion, but its exports shrank in December as U.S. tariffs began to hurt demand.

Despite the escalating trade war, Chinese exports to the U.S. rose 11.3 percent to $478.4 billion. Beijing’s retaliation, however, helped keep the increase in U.S. exports to China at a meager 0.7 percent for the year.

Analysts expect U.S. orders of Chinese goods will slump once the full impact of Mr. Trump’s tariffs hit.

S.A. Miller reported from Washington.

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