China buys more U.S. soybeans despite tariff threat

CHICAGO, May 5 (Reuters) - Chinese buyers booked deals to purchase 378,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Tuesday, even as the Trump administration considers new tariffs to punish China for the coronavirus outbreak.

Private exporters reported to the government that 136,000 tonnes of soybeans were for delivery in the 2019/2020 marketing year and 242,000 tonnes were for delivery in 2020/21.

China has stepped up its buying of U.S. agriculture commodities in recent weeks as it seeks to fulfill its obligations under the Phase 1 trade pact Washington and Beijing reached in January. The deals were a rare bright spot for the sector that has seen prices plunge due to the health pandemic and traders said Trump's recent rhetoric about China puts the purchases at risk.

Export sales of soybeans to China totaled 618,099 tonnes in the week ended April 23, USDA data showed, their biggest total since December.

In recent days, Washington and Beijing have traded increasingly bitter recriminations over the origin of the virus and the response to it. The Trump administration is "turbocharging" an initiative to remove global industrial supply chains from China, according to officials familiar with U.S. planning. The U.S. Commerce Department, State and other agencies are looking for ways to push companies to move both sourcing and manufacturing out of China. (Reporting by Mark Weinraub; Editing by David Gregorio)

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