CHICAGO -- Chinese soy importers on Monday bought at least five bulk cargo shipments of U.S. soybeans, or about 300,000 tonnes, for shipment in January and February after Beijing offered the buyers at least 1 million tonnes in new tariff waivers, U.S. exporters said.
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The fresh allotment of tariff waivers, which exempts importers from 30 percent tariffs on U.S. shipments, comes after buyers used up nearly all of the 10 million tonnes in waivers awarded by Beijing in October, the traders said.
China has imposed steep tariffs on U.S. soybeans and other agricultural products in retaliation for U.S. duties on Chinese goods during a 17-month trade war that has disrupted global grain flows, rattled markets and weighed on global economic growth.
Monday's purchases, the largest in at least two weeks, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, came ahead of a Dec. 15 deadline, when U.S. President Donald Trump has said he would impose a new round of tariffs on Chinese goods.
China said on Monday that it hoped to make a trade deal with the United States as soon as possible before the new tariffs kick in.
U.S. soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade staged their strongest rally in two months on Monday, with the benchmark January contract climbing above the $9-per-bushel mark for the first time in two weeks.
The fresh soybean sales bring China's total U.S. purchases for the current Sept-Aug marketing year to around 10 million tonnes, according to USDA data. That is well above the roughly 455,000 tonnes in commitments at the same point last year but considerably less than the 21.5 million tonnes in sales on the books in early December 2017, before the trade war began.
U.S. soybean shipments to the world's top importer of the oilseed eroded as China turned to South American suppliers for more soybeans. But available soybean supplies from Brazil are running low ahead of the country's harvest, which typically ramps up in January or February.
Beijing said on Friday it will waive import tariffs for some soybeans and pork shipments from the United States but did not specify quantities.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago, additional reporting by Julie Ingwersen Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Steve Orlofsky)