Region/Countries: Asia, China Industry: Agriculture / Timber, Multiple Sectors Date: February 2019

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Priorities include eradicating poverty and diversifying imports.

The No.1 Central Document, issued Feb. 19 by the Chinese government, is seen as a key indicator of policy priorities each year. The document for 2019 emphasized eradicating poverty and diversifying imports amid slowing economic growth and continuing trade tensions with the U.S.

In the face of downward pressure on the economy and “profound changes in the external environment,” policies on agriculture and rural areas are even more critical, said the “No. 1 central document,” released by the State Council on Tuesday evening.

The annual No. 1 document usually sets forth policy priorities for farmers, the agricultural industry and rural areas.

China should diversify its agricultural imports and, in particular, should plant more soybeans, according the document. China is the world’s biggest buyer of U.S. soybeans, which are mainly used to make animal feed and oil, but purchasing temporarily ground to a halt last year after China imposed punitive tariffs on imports in response to U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. Soybean buying resumed in December after a temporary truce through March 1 was agreed to by both countries.

China will continue to import soybeans, and the market will decide what source to buy them from, said Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Party Committee member Wu Hongyao, speaking at a press conference in February. China imports about 90% of its soybeans, with one-third of these imports coming from the U.S.

Although China wants to develop its own domestic soybean production, imports will continue to be the mainstay of the country’s supply, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Han Changfu said at the same press conference. China and the U.S. are important partners in the soybean trade, he added.

“The soybean revitalization plan named in the document, as well as similar moves for rapeseed, are clearly intended to rebalance away from heavy dependence on the U.S.,” said Even Pay, an analyst at China Policy, a Beijing-based consultancy.

“The hope is that countries along the Belt and Road will start growing more soybeans, and China can do a better job of supplying itself in the meantime,” she said, referring to a Chinese plan to strengthen infrastructure and trade links among countries in Asia and Europe.