China's purchases of U.S. farm goods at 71% of target under trade deal: U.S.

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FILE PHOTO: Corn pictured on a farm in Roachdale, Indiana

China's purchases of U.S. farm goods at 71% of target under trade deal: U.S.

FILE PHOTO: Corn pictured on a farm in Roachdale, Indiana

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China has substantially increased purchases of U.S. farm goods and implemented 50 of 57 technical commitments aimed at lowering structural barriers to U.S. imports since the two nations signed a trade deal in January, the U.S. government said on Friday.

In a joint statement, the U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR) office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said China had bought over $23 billion in U.S. agricultural goods to date, or about 71% of the target set under the so-called Phase 1 deal.

"Since the Agreement entered into force eight months ago, we have seen remarkable improvements in our agricultural trade relationship with China, which will benefit our farmers and ranchers for years to come," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

The deal defused a bitter trade war between the world's two largest economies, but disputes over human rights, the COVID-19 crisis and technology have strained ties between Washington and Beijing, raising doubts about the prospects for deepening the agreement in a second phase.

Agriculture is one of the four areas where China pledged to increase its purchases of U.S. goods and services. Many experts question whether China will meet its overall targets this year given lockdowns imposed earlier this year to contain the virus.

The report showed outstanding sales of U.S. corn to China were at an all-time high of 8.7 million tons, while U.S. soybeans sales for marketing year 2021 to China were at double the levels seen in 2017.

U.S. exports of sorghum to China from January to August 2020 totaled $617 million, up from $561 million for the same period in 2017, it said.

U.S. pork exports to China hit an all-time record in just the first five months of 2020, and U.S. beef and beef products exports to China through August 2020 are already more than triple the total for 2017, it said.

In addition to these products, USDA expects 2020 sales to China to hit record or near-record levels for other U.S. agricultural products including pet food, alfalfa hay, pecans, peanuts, and prepared foods.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Grant McCool)