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Abstract

On January 15, 2020, the U.S. and China signed a “Phase One” trade deal to address desired structural reforms and other changes to the Chinese economy affecting international trade and foreign investment. The U.S.-China Phase One Agreement, which is the first agreement in what is expected to be a series of agreements, focuses on reforms in the Chinese economy in the areas of intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, and currency and foreign exchange. The agreement also includes commitments by China to purchase additional U.S. goods and services over the next two years, including significant purchases of U.S. agricultural, food and fishery products (Office of the U.S. Trade Representative [USTR], 2020a). Although the U.S. has agreed not to impose additional tariffs on imports from China, and China has agreed to reduce or eliminate certain tariffs imposed in direct retaliation to U.S. tariffs, the Phase One Agreement does not specifically address the escalating tariffs between the two countries due to the ongoing trade dispute that started in 2018. However, the agreement signifies a decrease in tensions between the U.S. and China and a possible path to future tariff reductions and eliminations. These potential reductions are particularly important for U.S. agriculture, which has suffered considerable export losses in 2018 and 2019 from Chinese retaliatory tariffs. (See Muhammad and Smith, 2018; and Muhammad, Smith, and MacDonald, 2019, for a discussion of the trade dispute’s impact on Tennessee and U.S. soybeans and cotton.) In this report, we provide both an overview and context for the U.S.-China Phase One Agreement and outlook for U.S. agricultural exports. We also discuss the potential price implications for major agricultural commodities. We close the report with a brief summary and discuss implications for U.S. and Tennessee agriculture.

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