China gives waivers to importers to buy U.S. soy exempt from tariffs: sources

By Hallie Gu

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has given new waivers to several importers to buy U.S. soybeans exempt from retaliatory tariffs, in a goodwill gesture ahead of high-level trade talks next month, two sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The waivers, offered in two batches, total around 5 million to 6 million tonnes, according to one of the sources. They came as China returned to the U.S. soybean market this month.

The additional sales of U.S. soybeans, which have been piling up on American farms since the trade war began last year, are unlikely to spark a break through in negotiations for a trade deal between the two largest economies, however.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivered a stringing rebuke to China's trade practices on Tuesday and said he would not accept a "bad deal."

Firms granted the waivers include private, foreign and state firms Sinograin and COFCO, according to the sources, who declined to be named as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Some firms have already bought at least 30 cargoes, or approximately 1.8 million tonnes, of American soybeans this month, following the waiver offers, the sources said.

The first batch of extra-tariff free import quota was released earlier this month and was followed by a big purchase of American soy, according to the sources.

Privately run Chinese firms bought at least 10 cargoes of U.S. soybeans on Sept. 12, ahead of deputy-level talks in Washington last week, Reuters reported.

Chinese firms bought more than 20 cargoes of the oilseed from the United States on Monday, after the government issued the second batch of waivers, the sources said.

There will be more Chinese buying of U.S. soybeans before high-level trade talks in early October, according to one of the sources.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has criticized China for falling short of the 20 million tonnes of soybeans Washington says China pledged to buy since December, when Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met in Argentina.

One of the sources said China would meet that commitment and had already purchased 14 million tonnes.

"With the new waivers, that would be 20 million tonnes, about the volume China committed to buy from U.S.," the source said. "China might buy more if the trade talks in October go well."

Top level officials from both sides were set to meet in early October. Chinese officials canceled a trip to U.S. farm states last week, casting a pall over lower level talks.

(Reporting by Hallie Gu; Additional reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Cynthia Osterman)

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