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Millions of Acres of the Amazon Are at Risk Due to the Trade War Between the U.S. and China

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A deforested section of the Amazon rainforest.

The ongoing United States–China trade war, along with devastating floods in the Midwest this spring, are making it look like a bad year for soy exports from the U.S. But the consequences might be felt more globally. A new Nature journal commentary suggests that the world’s second largest soybean producer—Brazil—could pick up the slack, leading to a rapid increase in deforestation in the Amazon basin.

In March of 2018, the Trump administration imposed tariffs of up to 25 percent on Chinese imported goods. In retaliation, the Chinese government imposed tariffs of 25 percent on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods—including soybeans, the U.S.’s most important agricultural export crop. Now fresh demand is being placed on China’s other major soy suppliers to provide up to 37.6 million tons of the bean—the total amount imported by China in 2016.

According to researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, the most likely option is that China’s other principal supplier of soybeans, Brazil, will substantially ramp up its production.

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