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U.S. agriculture secretary says unsure if China will meet Phase 1 farm commitment

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue holds a U.S. flag-themed face mask while speaking about the nation?s food supply chain during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic response event in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

CEDAR GROVE, Wisc. (Reuters) - China may fall short of annual agricultural product purchasing commitments made in its Phase 1 trade deal with the United States due to “non-agricultural trade issues,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Friday.

“I’m not sure they’re going to make it, but they’re trying,” Perdue said during a town hall meeting with farmers at Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative. “Non-agricultural trade issues get in the way.”

China committed to importing $36.5 billion in U.S. farm products this year in the trade deal signed in January, but lagging purchases during the first half of the year cast doubt on the goal of increasing imports by more than 50% over 2017 levels.

It was unclear which trade issues Perdue believed were obstacles to the agreement. A series of hurdles have emerged since the Phase 1 deal was implemented, including a threatened U.S. ban on popular Chinese-owned social media app TikTok and an executive order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump ending preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong.

Chinese imports of U.S. agricultural products totaled just $8.6 billion from January through July, according to the latest U.S. Census trade data.

Buying has accelerated considerably in August and September, including around 12 million tonnes of soybeans and 4 million tonnes of corn, according to preliminary U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

(Story refiles to fix garbled text)

Reporting by Christopher Walljasper in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin; Additional reporting by Karl Plume in Far Hills, New Jersey; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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