Chinese trade negotiators cut US trip short

Chinese officials on Friday abruptly canceled plans to tour farms harmed by Beijing's tariffs on American agricultural goods, dampening hopes of successful trade talks between the U.S. and China.

After meeting with Trump administration officials in Washington this week, trade negotiators from China cut short a trip intended to foster goodwill between the countries as they seek a deal to end their trade war.

Chinese negotiators canceled plans to visit farms in Bozeman, Mont., and Omaha, Neb., next week, state officials confirmed to The Hill.

"We were informed this morning the Chinese delegation will no longer visit Nebraska," said Christin Kamm, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, in an email.

Nicole Rolf, director of national affairs for the Montana Farm Bureau, also confirmed in an email that the Chinese officials have canceled their plans to meet with farmers in the state.

The sudden cancellation of the farm visits may pose a setback to President Trump's efforts to revive trade talks with China.

The U.S. and China had taken several steps to ease tensions and the economic burden of their trade war ahead of staff-level talks in Washington this week. The White House announced Friday the exemption of more than 400 Chinese products from 25-percent tariffs imposed by Trump, which followed Beijing exempting pork and soybeans from further tariff hikes.

The visit of Chinese officials to farms hindered by those tariffs, announced by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday, signaled a willingness from Beijing to ease its tariffs on U.S. crops and begin a long-promised ramp-up of purchases from American farmers.

Pork and soybeans are among the top two U.S. exports to China, which is a crucial market for American farmers. Beijing has used its leverage over the U.S. farm sector to retaliate against Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods by imposing high import taxes on pork, soybeans and other American agricultural exports.

While the U.S. farm sector has faced domestic harm from Trump's trade war, his battle with China has also strained a slowing global economy, boosting the odds of a recession before the 2020 election.

Trump on Friday downplayed the risks of not striking a deal with China before the election, insisting that the U.S. economy would be fine and voters would remain on his side.

"I don't think I need it before the election. I think people know that we're doing a great job," Trump told reporters during a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday.

"We're doing very well. Our economy is very strong," Trump added. "China is being affected very badly, we're not."

But China experts say Trump has likely overestimated how much leverage he has over Chinese President Xi Jinping and how severely the trade war will hinder the Chinese economy.