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Donald Trump asked his Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, on Monday to explain why the administration requested that a Chinese trade delegation cancel its plans to visit U.S. farms and indicated that he disagreed with the decision.
The visits to farms in Montana and Nebraska were abruptly canceled on Friday, after Chinese officials met with U.S. counterparts in Washington to discuss the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. The cancellations caused markets to tumble.
“That was actually at our request, that they delayed that,” Mnuchin told reporters during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. “We didn’t want there to be any confusion, they have started buying agriculture, they’re going to reschedule that at a different time, the timing didn’t work.”
Trump responded: “Why was that our request, just out of curiosity?”
“Because we didn’t want confusion around the trade issue,” Mnuchin said.
“Yeah, but I want them to buy farm products,” Trump said.
China has targeted American farmers -- an important political constituency for Trump -- in its retaliation for U.S. tariffs, drastically cutting its purchases of soybeans and other commodities. Trump has responded with a bailout for farmers that so far totals about $28 billion.
Mnuchin told the Fox Business Network on Monday evening that China’s Vice Premier Liu He will visit Washington the week of Oct. 7.
(Updates with more comments from Mnuchin in final paragraph.)
--With assistance from Ben Livesey and Saleha Mohsin.
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