14:39 GMT +320 June 2018
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    The People's Republic of China flag and the U.S. Stars and Stripes fly along Pennsylvania Avenue near the US Capitol during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit in Washington, DC, US on January 18, 2011.

    Agriculture Cooperation Can Ease Sino-US Tension

    © REUTERS / Hyungwon Kang
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    China is likely to have a temporary honeymoon period with the US at a time when US President Donald Trump is facing political turmoil at home.

    The ongoing symposium of think tanks from China and the US taking place in Iowa and New York has received an increasing amount of attention from international observers. Unlike his predecessors, who used to elaborate on economic and foreign policy in public speeches, Trump is more comfortable communicating via Twitter, but his Twitter feed is not an adequate medium for describing US policy because of the emotional words Trump generally uses. The US' lack of clarity on foreign policy is likely to add uncertainty to Sino-US relations, which is the most important bilateral relationship in the world. 

    Trump focuses more on domestic affairs than his predecessors. Under Trump's presidency, the US has reduced the resources invested in foreign relations, and he has abandoned a series of multilateral agreements, including the TPP, while focusing more on bilateral negotiations. Negotiations with numerous parties are not easy for the US to handle, while in one-on-one negotiations, even with a large country like China, it is easy for the US to grasp the negotiation initiative. Sino-US relations are seen as very important in Washington. Although the US is not very enthusiastic about the ongoing negotiations over a bilateral investment treaty with China, it is highly unlikely the negotiations will be abandoned. 

    Before Trump took office as president, he delivered a series of accusations against China, but now it seems he has toned this down. Trump has been facing major domestic challenges, including the ongoing FBI probe over his alleged campaign links with Russia. Externally, Trump is surrounded by difficulties, such as North Korea's nuclear issue. Washington needs to strengthen its relations with Beijing in this particular period, which provides an opportunity for stability in Sino-US relations. Besides, some of the economic data for both China and the US has been positive in recent months, and the global economic recovery momentum has been more obvious. A positive economic environment will help alleviate trade friction between China and the US.

    In the past few decades, Sino-US relations have experienced ups and downs, which have generally been linked to the US domestic situation and the global economic environment. Relations may be relatively warm at the moment, but we cannot rule out the possibility that Trump will continue to put pressure on China in future after the internal US problems have eased. During his election campaign, Trump threatened to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports. If the US trade deficit with China cannot be reduced in the future, Trump is likely to face pressure from US voters, and his administration may once again voice a hard line against China during the 2018 midterm elections. Therefore, the possibility that future Sino-US relations may deteriorate should not be ignored.

    China and the US have set up a multi-level mechanism for dialogue and cooperation, and the two sides should seize the opportunity offered by the recent warming up of bilateral ties to promote pragmatic cooperation.

    Agriculture cooperation is likely to become a bright point. Washington has fewer concerns over agriculture, compared with areas such as high-tech exports. China and the US have made breakthroughs in agriculture trade, and the two sides in May announced simultaneously the initial results of the 100-day plan to address trade imbalances between the two countries.

    The US agriculture sector includes a range of farm-related industries that have long been a core part of the economy. There is large potential for cooperation in this area with China, which is one of the world's biggest consumers of agriculture products. According to the US Department of Agriculture, China became the leading US agricultural export destination in 2012, replacing Canada. Enhancing agriculture cooperation between the two countries will help narrow the US trade deficit with China.

    Agriculture and its related industries play a big role in Iowa's economy. Chinese President Xi Jinping, then party secretary of Zhengding county in North China's Hebei Province, visited Iowa in 1985, and returned to meet "old friends" during his visit in 2012 as Chinese vice president, according to the Xinhua News Agency. In the past few decades, a friendship has been established between Iowa and regions of China. Trump's move to choose former Iowa governor Terry Branstad as US ambassador to Beijing sent a goodwill signal and is likely to help boost bilateral agriculture cooperation between the two countries. 

    The article was compiled based on an interview with Wang Jun, a senior economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges and was originally published in the Global Times.


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