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Trump questions Mnuchin over request Chinese delay U.S. farm trip

Trump questions Mnuchin over request Chinese delay U.S. farm trip
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By Steve Holland

UNITEDNATIONS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday questioned a decision by his top trade negotiators to ask Chinese officials to delay a planned trip to U.S. farming regions after trade talks last week, saying he wanted China to buy more American farm products.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the United Nations General Assembly that the trade talks would resume next week with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He returning to Washington to meet with him and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Trump, speaking alongside Mnuchin, questioned his Treasury chief about the request that the Chinese delay a trip to meet with U.S. farmers in Montana and Nebraska. Mnuchin had said the trip was delayed at the administration’s request to avoid confusion over the talks.

“Why was that our request, just out of curiosity?” Trump asked.

Mnuchin explained again that the U.S. side “didn’t want confusion around the trade issues.”

Trump then interjected: “Yeah, but I want them to buy farm products.”

“There was no confusion,” Mnuchin replied. “We want them to buy agriculture. They have committed to buy agriculture. And they’re doing that”

Trump added that China had “committed to buy a lot of agriculture” and the United States should ship the products as fast as possible.

The exchange came after Chicago grain traders said Chinese importers on Monday had bought about 10 boatloads of U.S. soybeans – around 600,000 tonnes – to be shipped from Pacific Northwest ports from October through December. News of the deals sent soybean futures prices higher.

Cancellation of the planned trip cast a pall over conclusion of two days of U.S.-China trade talks last week, sending U.S. stocks lower. People familiar with the talks said that there were no new substantive offers made, but both the U.S. and Chinese sides said the talks were productive, and that minister-level talks would take place in early October.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, David Lawder and Karl Plume; Writing by David Lawder; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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