The former chief trade negotiator of China lashed out at Beijing on Sunday, offering a glimpse of the division within the Chinese ranks over how the country has handled the ongoing trade and tariffs war with the U.S.
“To some extent, I like Trump’s character. I hope the trade talks can have a good result.”
Long Yongtu, a former Vice Minister with China’s foreign trade ministry, openly criticized his country’s trade war tactics, specifically the tariffs imposed on U.S. soy beans.
Speaking at a conference organized by a Chinese media outlet, Long said it was inappropriate to involve political considerations in an attempt to weaken the hand of the U.S. The Chinese targeted soybeans particularly because of the political pressure it would apply to U.S. President Donald Trump and his support among U.S. farmers.
Per the South China Morning Post:
“If we have people who always talk about politics engaging in [trade] negotiations, we will never have a deal,” Long said, without naming anyone directly. “We don’t think deeply enough.”
Long said it was a mistake to target agricultural products like U.S. soybeans. Because of the soybean tariffs, the U.S. had to give a $12 billion bailout to its farmers.
“Agricultural products are very sensitive [in trade], and soybeans are very sensitive as well … We should have avoided targeting agricultural products because targeting agricultural products should be the last resort,” Long said. “But we have targeted agricultural products, or soybeans, right from the start.”
The agricultural states that produce the bulk of America’s soybeans make up Trump’s political heartland, but Long pointed out: “China is in dire need of soybean imports, so why did we pick out soybeans from the beginning? Is this deep thinking?”
China has imposed tariffs of 25 percent on soybeans imported from the U.S. Soybeans are the key ingredient for animal feed, greatly reducing the amount exported from the U.S., leading to domestic price increases in China.
Soybeans were one of the first U.S. products chosen because of the political significance over U.S. farmers in the Republican party’s heartland of supporters.
Lou Jiwei, China’s former finance minister and now the chairman of the national pension fund, said in March that Beijing could inflict pain on the US economy by “hitting” sectors such as soybeans, cars and aeroplanes.
Public criticism is rare in China, and Long even went so far as to praise Trump.
“To some extent, I like Trump’s character,” Long said. “I hope the trade talks can have a good result.”