Posts Tagged ‘China-US trade war’

China-US trade row might pave the way for the soybean Silk Road

June 30, 2018

Trade threats are giving added urgency to Beijing’s need to find long-term alternative suppliers for one of its key imports

South China Morning Post

Landlocked Kazakhstan in Central Asia is home to an extraordinarily diverse array of horticulture but there’s one crop coming in for special attention from China.

China is looking to Kazakhstan and other countries along the Silk Road to diversify its sources of soybeans.

China already imports nearly 100 million tonnes of the crop a year, accounting for about 60 per cent of the world’s market. Last year roughly half of those imports came from Brazil and a third from the United States, with suppliers in places like Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan together contributing less than 1 per cent of the total.

Almost all of the soybeans are processed into animal feed in China to satisfy the country’s ever-growing appetite for meat.

With finite room for growth in its small group of suppliers, China has long known it needs to diversify its sources to meet its expanding demand. That need has gained greater urgency in the last year as trade ties with the United States have frayed rapidly under the strain of tariff threats on both sides.

China has already imported less of the commodity from the US, and has instead turned to Brazilian and Russian supplies. In May, Russian authorities reported a record 850,000 tonnes in soybean exports to China since July, more than double the 340,000 tonnes a year earlier.

“Even if there is an agreement [with the US] China will look to diversify,” DC Analysis president Dan Cekander said. “The environment is now right that they will investigate all avenues of alternative suppliers, and the longer this dispute is prolonged the more likely that will happen.”

So far, China had cultivated few large-scale alternative sources and the huge market share might make buying US supplies inevitable, analysts said. But that could change as China pours investment into countries involved in its “Belt and Road Initiative”, Beijing’s effort to link economies into a China-centred trading network. And the longer the dispute with Washington goes on, the more these emerging sources will have to gain.

“The trade war with the US is generating really good press for the agricultural investment strategy along the belt and road,” said Even Pay, a senior analyst at Beijing-based consultancy China Policy. “[The trade war has] made the case for diversifying import partners really concrete, so policymakers and companies that may have been sceptical before are now seeing a lot of evidence that overdependence on any single supplier of agricultural products is risky.”

One neighbour keen to step into the breach is Kazakhstan, which after nearly a decade of trying finally exported soybeans to China last year.

Growers in the Central Asian nation shipped just 8,400 tonnes of the crop to China between September and March, according to Ukraine-based agribusiness consultancy UkrAgroConsult.

Exports had been derailed over the years by local protests over the leasing of land to Chinese agribusinesses.

But now Kazakhstan is laying the groundwork for greater exports in general with belt and road infrastructure projects, including the Kazakh section of the China-Europe transport corridor completed last year and the massive Khorgos dry port on the border with Xinjiang in China’s far west.

 China-US trade war is making American soybean farmers anxious

The relationship was reinforced in June when Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Beijing, and pledged to coordinate their pet economic projects, Xi’s belt and road plan and Nazarbayev’s “Bright Path” economic policy. The two leaders agreed that bilateral ties would focus on transport, agriculture, investment and interbank associations, all critical for increasing Kazakhstan’s role as an agricultural exporter to China.

Tristan Kenderdine, research director at Future Risk based in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, said

China wanted to use the belt and road to diversify its agricultural supply lines, but investment in agriculture moved more slowly than that in other industries. “Kazakhstan is desperate to diversity its economy, and cooperation with China is crucial,” Kenderdine said.

Investment is also growing along the China’s border with Russia in Heilongjiang province. In April, construction began on a port in Fuyuan for shipments of crops, much of it soybean, grown by Chinese companies on Russian farmland.

In addition, a small but rising amount of soybean comes from Ukraine. He Zhenwei, secretary general of the China Overseas Development Association, told entrepreneurs in Ukraine this month that this would continue, with China expected to increase imports of soybean and other agricultural products from the former Soviet state.

China has invested heavily in infrastructure in Ukraine, from dredging seabeds to increase capacity at seaports, to building grain silos and highways.

But there are still serious challenges to importing significant amounts of soybean and other agricultural products from these countries, including poor water supplies and Soviet-era infrastructure, according to Professor Yang Shu, director of the Institute for Central Asian Studies at Lanzhou University.

“At the moment, these countries could never hope to make a dent in major soybean suppliers like the US and Brazil,” Yang said.

Nevertheless, the evolving relationships and Chinese investment in agriculture in the region point to well beyond soybeans. At an interministerial meeting in May, Chinese officials called for the country to speed up development of its large international grain traders and agribusinesses, and to transfer of production capacity to advantageous areas along the belt and road.

Cekander said the trade row with the US could also prompt China to begin substituting soybeans for other goods, switching soybean meal used for feed, to corn and corn meal, which would boost demand for supplies from countries like Ukraine.

“The biggest fear is that there is structural change in Chinese demand if trade tensions wear on,” he said.

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People’s bank of China Urged to be More Hands Off on Exchange Rates

June 25, 2018

With China-US trade war looming, will Beijing be more hands off on exchange rates?

South China Morning Post

Analysts are calling for the central bank to stop using exchange rate levels as a monetary policy tool

Monday, 25 June, 2018, 12:13pm

Chinese analysts are calling on the government to give up its policy of maintaining a steady exchange rate for the yuan amid the looming threat of a trade war with the United States

The currency in the offshore market dropped to nearly 6.53 against the US dollar in Monday, down for an eighth day and recording its longest losing streak since 2016, as US President Donald Trump escalated trade hostilities against China and China’s central bank announced policy easing on Sunday.

The central bank’s move on Sunday to release US$100 billion into the banking system, a decision that is set to add depreciation pressure on the yuan, and its setting of the daily yuan rate at he weakest level in over five months on Monday showed that Beijing is happy to let the yuan go.

“The central bank is willing to sit back and watch the yuan weakening against the dollar, or it is even intentionally driving down the exchange rate,” Xu Qiyuan, a fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote in a note.

For more than a decade, the People’s Bank of China has been committed to “keeping the yuan exchange rate basically stable at a reasonable and balanced level”, but some researchers are saying its time to change.

In a recent article, Ma Jun, a newly appointed member of China’s monetary policy committee, and Guan Tao, a former official with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, wrote that Beijing should stop using exchange rate levels as a monetary policy tool.

In the report published in the latest issue of the central bank’s own journal, China Finance, the pair said the yuan should be allowed to float freely to reduce the conflict between “exchange rate and interest rate policies” and ensure “independence of monetary policy”.

If the PBOC were to heed the analysts’ advice it would result in much greater volatility in the value of the yuan in the near term, and probably see it weakening against the US dollar if trade tensions with Washington escalated, observers said.

“It’s not a good time to be forecasting the exchange rate of the renminbi in the near term,” said Eddie Cheung, a foreign exchange strategist at Standard Chartered in Hong Kong, using the official name for the yuan.

Investors were rushing to sell their yuan positions, as the entire Asia-Pacific market was in the shadow of a trade war, he said.

Teck Leng Tan, a currency analyst at UBS Global Wealth Management, said the yuan could fall to 6.70 or 6.80 to the US dollar in the coming weeks if the tariff threats made by China and the US became a reality.

The first batch of US tariffs against Chinese products are set to come into effect on July 6.

“It’s very risky for the yuan in the short term,” Tan said.

Beijing has been very sensitive to movements in the yuan’s exchange rate since August 2015 when a misstep on a planned modest devaluation of the currency triggered a massive outflow of funds.

The incident prompted Premier Li Keqiang to say that there was “no basis for continued depreciation in the renminbi” although the central bank later introduced a “counter cyclical” factor to keep currency movements in check.

From a low of 7 yuan to the dollar at the end of 2016, Beijing successfully engineered a 10 per cent appreciation of the currency through March of this year.

While it was mission achieved in exchange rate terms, the stronger yuan hit China’s export sector and its international payment positions.

Deng Haiqing, a visiting scholar at Renmin University of China, wrote in a note that it was very likely that the currency would weaken to below 7 to the dollar.

“A depreciation of the yuan can greatly help China’s position in a trade war,” he said.

Despite Deng’s comments, central bank governor Yi Gang said earlier this year that China would not deliberately weaken the yuan in a trade war with the US.

Such a move would be “a declaration of war not only against the US but everyone”, Tan said.

Beijing has traditionally worried about yuan depreciation because its value is often seen as a barometer for investor confidence in the Chinese economy. Another sharp fall could trigger more capital outflows.

But Yu Yongding, an economist and senior fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in an article published on news website Thepaper.cn last week that Beijing did not have to worry about capital outflows as it could always implement capital account controls.

China uses a “managed floating exchange rate” to control the yuan, with the central bank announcing a daily midpoint for its value against the US dollar and other currencies, and from which it is allowed to move just 2 per cent in either direction.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2152227/china-us-trade-war-looming-will-beijing-be-more-hands-exchange

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Donald Trump brands China a military rival in US reboot of great power strategy

January 31, 2018

Beijing stresses the two countries have common interests as US president insists that the stakes with China are not just economic

By Catherine Wong
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 9:29pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 9:55pm
 Image may contain: 1 person, stripes

US President Donald Trump named China as a major US competitor on both economic and military fronts in his first state-of-the-union address, another sign that Washington is putting great power rivalry at the heart of its national strategy.

Analysts said Trump’s explicit references to China contrasted with Beijing’s view of the Sino-US relationship and those of his predecessors who saw China as a partner despite their economic competition.

In response to the speech, Beijing called on Washington to abandon the “cold war” approach to their ties and for the two nations to respect each other.

“Even though there are differences, the two countries still share more mutual interests than differences,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday. “History and reality shows that cooperation is the only correct choice.”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also played down concerns over rising confrontation between Beijing and Washington, stressing that both sides have a lot of common interests.

“I hope the United States can have a comprehensive and objective view of the Sino-US relationship, expand our common interests and manage our differences,” Li said.

In an annual address to a joint session of the US Congress, Trump vowed to boost American defences to counter threats from China and Russia.

“Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values,” Trump said.

“In confronting these dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defence.

“For this reason, I am asking the Congress to end the dangerous defence sequester and fully fund our great military.”

Trump also said the US must “modernise and rebuild” its nuclear arsenal, although the US would “hopefully never having to use” such weapons.

He also highlighted the need for fair and reciprocal trade relationships, and promised to take action to defend the country’s intellectual property.

“And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property through strong enforcement of our trade rules,” he said.

Trump’s reference to China as a direct threat on all fronts is a departure from the take of his three immediate predecessors.

In 2000, then US president Bill Clinton talked about the importance of engaging China and appealed to Congress to back the US’ effort to bring China into the World Trade Organisation.

Six years later, president George W Bush referred to China as one of the “new competitors” along with India on the economic front.

In 2016, US president Barack Obama said only that the United States must not let China write the rules of global commerce.

Trump’s focus on China as a broader threat reflects a major shift in US defence priorities outlined in US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis’s National Defence Strategy released in January. The document says the US will refocus on China and Russia after a decade of fighting terrorism in the Middle East.

Trump has also signed into law a sweeping defence policy bill authorising a US$700 billion budget for the military, but it still needs lawmakers’ approval.

Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University’s Centre for American Studies, said Trump was playing up the threat from China and Russia to back his call for a big increase in the military budget.

“[But] China has yet to pose a direct military threat to the US,” Wu said.

Teng Jianqun, director of the US studies department at the China Institute of International Studies, said there was a huge discrepancy in how China and the US viewed their relationship.

Chinese analysts and officials tended to be optimistic about bilateral ties, while those in the US were pessimistic, Teng said.

“If we do not pay attention to this perception gap, there could be miscalculations from both sides,” he said.

Jie Dalei, assistant professor of international relations at Peking University, said that even though Trump had clearly named China as one of his country’s greatest rivals, it would be difficult for the US to follow through on a strategy to contain China.

“The [US’] Indo-Pacific strategy is still a concept rather than a plan for execution,” Jie said. “Without economic assistance or other support, Trump won’t be able to achieve any more than Obama.”

Additional reporting by Wendy Wu and Liu Zhen

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2131445/donald-trump-brands-china-military-rival-us-reboot