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Mnuchin surprises Trump by saying US scrapped Chinese farm tours

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinOn The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing from Persian Gulf region: report Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE on Monday said that a Chinese delegation canceled visits to U.S. farm communities last week at the administration's request, a comment that caught President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE by surprise.

Trump was asked during a bilateral meeting with the Egyptian president about the cancellation and what he thought it meant for trade talks with Beijing. The president deferred to Mnuchin, who downplayed the significance of the move. 

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"That was actually at our request they delayed that," Mnuchin said. "We didn’t want there to be any confusion. They have started buying agriculture. They're going to reschedule that at a different time. The timing didn’t work, but that was our request."

"Why was that at our request, just out of curiosity?" Trump said.

"We didn’t want confusion," Mnuchin responded.

"Yeah, but I want them to buy farm products," Trump interjected.

Mnuchin then clarified that China has committed to buy U.S. agricultural products as part of ongoing negotiations.

Chinese representatives last Friday scrapped plans to visit farms this week in Bozeman, Mont., and Omaha, Neb. The trip was intended to foster goodwill between the countries as they seek a deal to end the ongoing trade war, but the cancelation dampened optimism about the prospect of ongoing talks.

The trade war between the U.S. and China has had a disproportionate effect on American farmers, with products such as soybeans, pork and other agricultural products among the top exports to China, and Beijing has targeted those areas with retaliatory tariffs.

High-level Chinese officials are expected to meet with U.S. representatives next week as the two sides seek to get negotiations back on track.