US trade policy on the minds of voters

Democratic candidates discussed at debate.

U.S. trade policy has been an important economic topic ever since President Trump launched the trade war against China nearly two years ago. It's also among the top concerns on voters' minds.

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The topic was brought up during the fifth Democratic debate on Wednesday night in Atlanta.

Soybean farmers in particular have suffered as a result of the trade war.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg was asked if he would continue the billions of dollars in farm subsidies the Trump administration has given to soybean and other farmers to offset the pain.

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Buttigieg said he would support farmers, but emphasized that the subsidies don't make up for the costs of the trade war.

"I don't think this president cares one bit about these farmers," he said.

Ian Sheldon, a professor of agricultural economics who studies international commodity markets at The Ohio State University, describes how soybeans became China's biggest weapon in the trade war.

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"The importance of China as a market for soybeans has been driven by an explosion in demand for meat as consumers switch from a diet dominated by rice to one where pork, poultry and beef play an important part," he explains.

Sen. Cory Booker said, "This is POTUS who seems to want to go up against China trade war by pulling away from allies attacking them as well, national security waiver to put tariffs on Canada, China stealing tech, forcing tech trans, violating human rights, pulling away from critical allies we need to show strength against China."

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker speaks during the fifth 2020 campaign debate at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Nov. 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

"We see a scorecard not looking so good, China shifting more towards authoritarian government, we need much stronger policy, not lead in transactional way, but by American values," he added.

China's Commerce Ministry said on Thursday that it will strive to reach an initial trade agreement with the United States as both sides keep communication channels open, according to Reuters.

China is willing to work with the United States to resolve each other's core concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and will try hard to reach a "phase one" deal, Gao Feng, spokesman at the ministry, told reporters.

"This is in line with the interests of both China and the United States, and of the world," Gao said.

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Economists warn that the prolonged trade dispute between China and the United States is escalating risks to the global economy.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.