President Bush hosted the Chinese premier in Washington this week. And while much of their agenda focused on issues outside the trade arena, there's little doubt the topic came up.
Critics charge China with failing to live up to the commitments it made two years ago in order to gain membership in the World Trade Organization. In particular, they charge China with failing to lower trade barriers ... and manipulating its currency to gain an unfair trade advantage.
Still, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says China's trade policies are not the only concern. He says a relaxation in those policies might simply open China's borders to other U.S. competitors, like those in South America.
That's key to U.S. farm interests, who are watching a rapid escalation in South American crop numbers, even as their own stockpiles dwindle.
Brazil's soybean planting estimates for the 2003-'04 season are growing, with private estimates approaching 52 million acres. Despite early reports of Asian rust in the fields, production estimates are 59.4 million tons -- up just over 13 percent from last year.
In Argentina, reports of dry weather may have led some farmers to switch from corn to soybeans. The soybean production is forecast to be 36.5 million tons.
On home soil ... despite trader and analyst expectations... the USDA did not lower its forecast for U.S. soybean ending stocks. Last month's carryout forecast of 125 million bushels remains unchanged ... which places it at the lowest level since 1976-77.
The USDA also left its U.S. soybean production forecast stable, at 2.45 billion bushels... and its export forecast unchanged, at 890 million bushels.
Projected U.S. feed grain ending stocks are lowered by just over one million tons because of larger exports. U.S. corn ending stocks are projected to shrink to about 1.273 billion bushels thanks mostly to China shying away from the corn export market. Reports that China has low stocks and low corn production, opens the door to the U.S. The projected U.S. corn export figure is expected to be expanded by about 50 million-to-75 million bushels.