Bouncing Beans and Tesla Help U.S. Win the February Trade Battle

Ags - Grains/Beans 237 China 2530 Cons. Discr. - Autos 921 Tariffs 1614 U.S. 4478

Trade negotiations between the U.S. and China may be coming to a successful conclusion. The next formal round of talks has been scheduled for Apr. 29, the Wall Street Journal reports. The aim is to complete negotiations by the end of May for a formal signing meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump in early June.

The Trump administration’s leverage during negotiations has been applied mostly through the application of tariffs on Chinese exports in three stages since July 2018. China retaliated in kind with the result that both sides have seen a decline in trade.

In February the U.S. came out “ahead”. Panjiva analysis shows U.S. imports from China targeted for tariffs fell 26.9% year over year or by $5.30 billion in February. That was driven by a 77.1% slump in shipments of computer components as well as a 38.7% slide in network device shipments.

By contrast U.S. exports to China fell by 21.9% or $1.69 billion for a net “loss” in net exports for China of $3.61 billion.


Chart shows bilateral trade between the U.S. and China of products targeted for tariffs since July 2018.  Source: Panjiva

That was the first month that the U.S. came out ahead in that regard, but there is evidence that the effect may be temporary. U.S. exports to China in February were boosted month-over-month by a jump in shipments of soybeans which increased $261 million sequentially to reach $733 million, Panjiva data shows.

At the same time there was a $715 million sequential increase in exports of cars to China, including a $319 million increase in shipments of electric vehicles. That’s likely the result of a temporary slowdown in shipments by Tesla as the result of customs labelling issues, as discussed in Panjiva’s research of Mar. 29.

Finally, preliminary data from the Chinese government for March suggests that Chinese exports to the U.S. increased by $1.14 billion in March while China’s imports fell by $3.94 billion, resulting in a net loss of exports for the U.S. of $2.80 billion.


Chart shows sequential change in U.S. exports to China of products targeted for tariffs since July 2018.  Source: Panjiva

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