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Chinese agribusiness executive 'hopeful' regarding US-China trade

ZHENGZHOU, China — A top executive in China's all-important agriculture sector is "hopeful" that U.S.-China trade will continue to flourish, despite tough talk that has come from both sides.

"For a period of time, to a certain extent, yes, we were concerned," Angela Liu Chang, chairman of New Hope Liuhe, a major agricultural enterprise, told CNBC. "But more recently, we saw [Chinese President Xi Jinping's] visit to the U.S., and this 100-day trade cooperation with Trump and the U.S., and as such, it makes us hopeful going forward."

Trade tensions have flared between the U.S. and China lately, including for agricultural products. Last fall, the U.S. filed a complaint to the World Trade Organization, accusing China of having unfair agricultural subsidies for three key crops — wheat, corn and rice — and alleging they hurt American farmers. President Donald Trump was also outspoken on the campaign trail about China's unfair trade practices — a sentiment that continued after he set foot in the White House.

Liu Chang, chairman of New Hope Liuhe Co., speaks during a session at the China Green Companies Summit in Zhengzhou, China, on Saturday, April 22, 2017.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg via Getty Images
Liu Chang, chairman of New Hope Liuhe Co., speaks during a session at the China Green Companies Summit in Zhengzhou, China, on Saturday, April 22, 2017.

Going forward, the agricultural industry is facing its "biggest challenge in 30 years because of China's rapid urbanization," Liu said. For instance, more farmers are moving into Chinese cities in hopes of finding new work. As such, the industry must adapt and innovate, while also working to ensure environmental and food safety for the Chinese consumer, she said.

Part of that means continuing to look for foreign investment opportunities to provide more quality products for China, she said, without identifying specific countries.

New Hope Liuhe has business in about 20 countries, including the U.S. and Australia, many of which are included in a wider diplomacy initiative out of Beijing, "One Belt, One Road." As such, Liu says her company is clearly poised to benefit and flourish under the plan.

Liu, 36, became chairman of New Hope Liuhe in 2013, joining a major family business that her father, Liu Yonghao built from scratch. The elder Liu is often called China's richest chicken farmer, given humble origins in Sichuan province.

New Hope Liuhe is a Shenzhen-listed company and part of the larger New Hope, China's largest agricultural business group. Shares of the firm have been little changed so far this year.