China halts purchase of US farm products

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China has halted its purchases of US agricultural products and will not rule out levying import tariffs on American farm imports purchased after August 3, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said early on Tuesday.

The moves by China represent the latest escalation in its trade row with the United States that has unnerved global markets and investors.

“Related Chinese companies have suspended purchases of US agricultural products,” China's Ministry of Commerce said in an online statement posted shortly after midnight in Beijing on Tuesday.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry did not disclose the value of US agricultural imports that may be subjected to new import tariffs.

US President Donald Trump ratcheted up tensions between the two countries last week when he vowed to impose a 10 percent tariff on $300 billion of Chinese imports from September 1, a decision China's Commerce Ministry said was a “serious violation” of the consensus struck by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Osaka in June.

“China's market capacity is large and it has bright prospects for importing high-quality US agricultural products,” the Commerce Ministry said.

It added that it hoped the United States would keep its promises and create the “necessary conditions” for bilateral cooperation.

The amount of US farm products that China buys has been a sore point in its trade spat with the United States. Other issues of contention include the protection of intellectual property rights in China and Chinese exports of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances, which US officials say is the main source of a drug blamed for opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States.

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