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Soybeans, a crop almost exclusively produced by farmers in the GOP's rural base who voted overwhelmingly for President Trump in the 2016 election, are a key inclusion on China's list of 106 U.S. products that will be subject to retaliatory tariffs.

Expand chart
Data: Department of Agriculture; Map: Chris Canipe/Axios

The bottom line: In 2016, soybeans accounted for 12% of U.S. exports to China, per MIT's data. And American farmers ramped up production of soybeans in part because the Chinese were buying in such massive quantities. Now, that source of revenue is in jeopardy.

The backdrop...

  • Politically-motivated tariff retaliation isn't new, Thomas Duesterberg of the Hudson Institute tells Axios. "The Europeans have become experts at that. Everybody's learning from them," he says.
  • When then-President Bush announced steel tariffs in 2002, the European Union threatened retaliation aimed at Florida, a sensitive state for Bush. Now, the Chinese are using moves against U.S. agricultural products and manufactured goods, such as automobiles and planes, to hit Trump's core voters.
  • Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association told the Des Moines Register: Tariffs create "a lot of market disruption at a time when farmers can't afford any disruptions ... For farmers on the edge, this could be very detrimental."

Yes, but...

  • Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise — that he'd be tough on China — made to industrial workers in his base. And "there are a lot more of those people than there are farmers ... That's probably the political calculus that Trump is employing here," says Duesterberg.
  • And the farming community has ways of seeking recourse, he says. Many American farmers stopped growing corn and wheat in favor of soybeans as the Chinese market grew, and they have the option of switching back.
  • Farmers are also protected by price floors on agricultural goods — a market advantage industrial workers don't have. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue tweeted: "The president has assured me he won't let our farmers bear the brunt of China's retaliation."
  • "You've also got to understand that Trump is going to get support from the other side of the aisle on this ... That mutes the damage to him to a certain extent," according to Duesterberg.

Go deeper

Updated 30 mins ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.