By Makini Brice
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States may give American farmers additional money until trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and other countries fully go into effect, President Donald Trump said on Friday.
"If our formally targeted farmers need additional aid until such time as the trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and others fully kick in, that aid will be provided by the federal government," Trump wrote in a Twitter post entirely in capital letters.
It was not immediately clear how large the aid package would be or how long it would last.
The Trump administration set aside a $16 billion aid package to farmers in 2019, and $12 billion a year earlier. In January, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said farmers should not expect another bailout package in 2020.
Trump is seeking re-election in the Nov. 3 presidential election. Farmers form a key part of his electoral base, but they have been badly bruised by low commodity prices and Trump's tit-for-tat tariff dispute with China.
Ted McKinney, U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary, later said the department had not expected Trump's comment.
“The President's Tweet was a surprise to us," McKinney said at an event in Arlington, Virginia. "He will make that decision. And we will go with that decision.”
The White House and the U.S. Trade Representative's office all declined to comment.
Last month, Trump signed a trade deal with Canada and Mexico into law, along with a separate Phase 1 accord with China that went into effect in mid-February.
Canada has not yet ratified the deal and experts had been sceptical that China, which had pledged to increase its purchases of U.S. goods by $200 billion over two years, would be able to meet the goal even before a coronavirus outbreak hit the country's imports and exports.
(Reporting by Makini Brice; Additional reporting by P.J. Huffstutter in Arlington, Virginia; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bernadette Baum)