U.S. Sees Risk China to Target American Farmers in Trade Spat

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S.’s top trade negotiator said he’s concerned American soybean farmers will become victims of Chinese trade retaliation, but the Trump administration is pursuing a tariff policy to protect broader national interests.

“What I would agree with is that we have trade rights that we have to defend and that too often farmers get the short end of the stick,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told senators during a hearing Thursday in Washington. “We have to balance this.”

President Donald Trump is set to announce about $50 billion of tariffs against China over intellectual-property violations later on Thursday, opening a new front in an escalating global trade skirmish that is shaking financial markets.

During the Senate Finance Committee hearing, Lighthizer heard criticism of the administration’s trade agenda from both Republicans and Democrats.

China is a big buyer of American soybeans. As a result, U.S. farmers have a lot to lose if China retaliates, Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, told Lighthizer.

"The most vulnerable sector of the economy are the ones who export and farmers are a very sympathetic group," Lighthizer said.

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