China to levy reciprocal tariff on U.S. soybean as bilateral trade war escalates

China has unveiled a list of products worth $50 billion that includes soybean, automobiles and chemical products imported from the United States that will be subject to higher tariffs, as a tit-for-tat trade war between the two economic giants escalated further.

The Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council has decided to impose additional tariff of 25 percent on 106 items of products under 14 categories, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement on its website.

The move came after the U.S. announced a proposed list of products subject to additional tariffs, which covers Chinese exports worth $50 billion dollars with a suggested tariff rate of 25 percent.

The date of implementation will depend on when the U.S. government impose the tariffs on Chinese products, Chinese media quoted the ministry as saying.

China is the world’s largest soybean importer and biggest buyer of the oilseed from the U.S. with trade worth about $14 billion last year.

Earlier, Chinese tariffs on 128 U.S. goods, including wine and pork took effect on April 2 after the U.S. moved to impose fresh tariffs on Chinese goods.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. Terry Branstad last month warned China against retaliatory measures aimed at imports of American soybeans and said any efforts to curb the trade would harm regular Chinese citizens more than American growers, according to a Bloomberg report.

China is the world’s biggest pork producer and consumer and its industry relies on soybean meal, a product of soybean crushing, to feed its pigs. Rising costs for hog farmers risks increasing the price of pork, a component of China’s consumer price index, it added.

The American Soybean Association (ASA) had earlier  expressed serious concerns over President Donald Trump’s stand on tariff on steel and aluminium, fearing the decision would lead to an inevitable retaliation from its biggest export partner China and hit business hard.

“As an export-driven industry, we believe agriculture can make a powerful contribution to reducing the nation’s trade deficit if the administration pursues policies that enhance our competitiveness rather than reduce our access to foreign markets,” ASA President John Heisdorffer had said in a statement.

The importance of the China market in sustaining the American soybean cultivators’ livelihoods and the industry’s role in the nation’s agricultural and rural economy cannot be overstated, Heisdorffer added.

“In 2017, U.S. farmers produced a record 4.4 billion bushels of soybeans and exported over 2.3 billion bushels, or 52 percent, valued at $27 billion. For the last 20 years, soybeans have contributed more to the U.S. trade balance than any other agricultural product.”

In 2017, China imported 1.4 billion bushels from the U.S., 61 percent of the total exports and nearly one out of every three rows of soybean production.

Uttara is a correspondent with Indoasiancommodities. You can write to her on uttara.malhotra@indoasiancommodities.in.

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