WASHINGTON (AP) — China decided Monday to meet President Donald Trump's latest tariff threat with defiance, halting purchases of U.S. farm products.
China has also let its currency drop to an 11-year low but backed off Tuesday, halting its devaluation.
“China’s announcement that it will not buy any agricultural products from the United States is a body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by," American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said. “In the last 18 months alone, farm and ranch families have dealt with plunging commodity prices, awful weather and tariffs higher than we have seen in decades."
He said exports to China were down by $1.3 billion during the first half of the year.
"Now, we stand to lose all of what was a $9.1 billion market in 2018, which was down sharply from the $19.5 billion U.S. farmers exported to China in 2017," Duvall said.
The moves came four days after Trump threatened more taxes on Chinese imports.
China's official Xinhua news agency reported that Chinese companies have stopped buying U.S. farm products — a direct shot at Trump supporters in rural America.
Together, the currency devaluation and suspension of farm purchases suggest that China has decided to stand tough, rather than cave in to Trump's threats.
"The Chinese side won't submit to the U.S.," tweeted Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of China's hardline Global Times newspaper.
The Chinese are well aware of the pain the trade war is causing American farmers, a loyal part of Trump's political base. Their retaliatory tariffs on $110 billion in U.S. products targeted soybeans and other key agricultural products. To ease the pain in rural America, Trump has rolled out two packages of farm aid worth a combined $27 billion.
Monday's Xinhua report said that Beijing would "not rule out the possibility of levying additional tariffs" on U.S. farm imports. Xinhua said Trump's plan to tax another $300 billion in Chinese imports "seriously violated" a cease-fire agreed to in June by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.