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Trade war

China's US soybean imports soar after 'phase one' trade deal

Amount doubles in November, but Brazil remains biggest supplier

An American farmer checks soybeans. China has increased its U.S. soybean purchases after it reached an interim trade deal with Washington.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- China's soybean imports spiked in November following the interim trade deal with the U.S.

Imports reached roughly 8.3 million tons of soybeans, which increased 53.7% compared with the same period last year, according to customs data. 

China's purchases of U.S. soybeans more than doubled to 2.6 million tons compared with imports in October, though Brazil remained China's biggest soybean supplier with 3.9 million tons imported last month, according to Chinese agriculture database CoFeed. 

This comes after Washington and Beijing announced a "phase one" trade deal in October following a trade war that has gone on for more than a year. The American agriculture sector has been hit among the hardest because China was U.S. soybean farmers' biggest client. Beijing has agreed to purchase more U.S. farm products as part of the deal. 

The two sides finalized the interim deal this month, marking a step toward resolving the tit-for-tat tariff battle. The U.S. and China have agreed to cancel planned tariffs on each other's goods. In terms of farm imports, Beijing has agreed to increase the purchase scale by $32 billion over the next two years. 

China has been increasing soybean purchases from Brazil and Russia during the trade war. But the efforts have not ceased upon the interim trade deal. 

On Thursday, Russia media reported that the country is delivering soybeans to China by train for the first time, according to Chinese agriculture database CoFeed. State-owned enterprise China Oil and Food Corporation (COFCO) will receive 250 tons of Russian soybeans. 

Imports of soybeans from Argentina, Uruguay and Ukraine also increased last month, with purchases from Ukraine more than quadrupled, according to CoFeed. 

Although officials from China and the U.S. said they will begin negotiations on the second phase of trade deal immediately, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng on Thursday said Beijing "firmly opposed" the National Defense Authorization Act, which U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law last week.

China was mentioned 202 times in the legislation, lawmakers plan to confront China on a variety of threats and concerns, including sanctions on Chinese companies, Chinese efforts to infiltrate U.S. universities and research institutions and China's Belt and Road Initiative. The act also makes it tougher to lift sanctions on telecom giant Huawei.

The defense act's "restrictions on purchasing Chinese products and Chinese companies' exports are bad examples of government intervention into companies' normal operation and activities, which is the opposite of the U.S.'s values of free and fair trade. It harms international trade and global industry chain," Gao said. "China will closely monitor NDAA's impacts on Chinese companies and take necessary measures to protect Chinese companies' rights."

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