April 11 (Reuters) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday said negotiations were the preferred method for easing trade tensions between China and the United States.
"Our first goal is to negotiate ourselves out of the saber rattling that has occurred and to make sure that these market disruptions do not have a permanent impact," Perdue said at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies.
If negotiations fail, Perdue said he would deploy funds authorized by the recently passed $1.3 billion spending bill to mitigate pain to American farmers caused by a trade dispute, but he did not specify which programs would be used.
Perdue admitted that he would not have used the same negotiating style as U.S. President Donald Trump, who threatened to impose $100 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese imports after Beijing announced plans to slap tariffs on 106 U.S. goods including soybeans.
He added that he was pleased that Chinese President Xi Jinping was showing some willingness to be flexible.
Xi on Tuesday promised to open the country's economy further and lower import tariffs on products - including cars - in a speech seen as conciliatory amid rising U.S.-China trade tensions.
Following Xi's speech U.S. President Donald Trump expressed confidence the world's two largest economies would come through an ongoing trade spat and "make great progress together." (Reporting by Mark Weinraub, editing by G Crosse)