China to Buy Billions Worth of US Soybeans

Posted February 15th, 2012 at 8:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is in Iowa, where Chinese buyers have pledged to buy $4.3 billion worth of soybeans.

The Chinese trade federation Wednesday signed an agreement to buy nearly 9 million metric tons of soybeans from U.S. companies. The trade representatives are expected to sign another deal when they travel with Xi to Los Angeles Thursday — bringing the total purchase amount to a record-breaking 12 million metric tons. That would be the largest amount of soybeans that China has purchased in a single year.

Although Xi did not attend the signing ceremony for the soybean deal, his visit to Iowa is seen as a symbol of its strong trade relationship with China. Iowa is the largest U.S. producer of soybeans, and China is the world's largest importer of them.

But Xi's visit to Iowa also had a personal component — he is spending time with people he met on his first trip to the state more than 25 years ago. VOA correspondent Steve Baragona reports that Xi was slated to have tea with the family he stayed with when he was a junior official.

The family says they are honored to have a second meeting with the man now expected to become China's next president.

“We hope that the example we set back then, friendship and kindness, can work and maybe be expanded in the future.”

Earlier Wednesday, Xi was in Washington, DC, where he said in a major policy speech that China welcomes the U.S. playing a “positive role” in the Asia-Pacific region. But he said the world's two largest economies should respect each other's “core interests and major concerns.”

Chinese state media have carried glowing accounts of the high-profile visit, describing the U.S.-China relationship as the most important in the world.

Vice President Xi met at the White House Tuesday with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The White House says specific human rights cases and the situation in Tibet were raised in those discussions.

Xi's government has been deeply embarrassed by a series of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting Chinese policies. But during his White House meetings Tuesday, Xi said his country will continue to advance the “tremendous and well-recognized” achievements on human rights he said it has made in recent decades.

Phelim (FEE'-lim) Kine, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, told VOA Wednesday there was nothing new in Xi's remarks.

“Vice President Xi Jinping's comments on China's human rights situation are tried-and-true boiler plate comments, which Chinese leaders make on every visit to the United States.”