From the Ground Up: A Historical Look at Ag Trade Grievances with China

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BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and since then there has been a deluge of complaints from the U.S. agricultural sector about our trade relationship with China. Bart Fischer is the co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M.

“If you look at soybeans, we export a fourth to a third of our soybean crop is exported to China. That is a really, really big deal and it’s certainly a big deal to soybean producers. We export, right behind soybeans, we exported a tremendous amount of cotton to China. And then after that, we exported a little bit of corn that for the last five years has largely been displaced by sorghum exports. But you get beyond those three crops and what are we sending to China?”

Fischer answers the question by saying we’re not sending them much of anything.

“On beef, we were largely boxed out of China prior to the Trump Administration coming in, we were boxed out since 2003 with the BSE scare here. On poultry, they used the high path avian influenza outbreak back in the 2013-2014 time frame to largely implement a nationwide ban on poultry and pork from the United States. Look at rice, what are we sending on rice? Virtually nothing. What are we sending on wheat? They’re not even living up to the TRQ commitment they made on wheat. Just tick down the list and we’ve got a number of problems and that’s just on market access.”

Fischer points out there are also a litany of problems with biotechnology. After years of complaining the Office of U.S. Trade Representative also launched a case in the WTO charging that China was over subsidizing its corn, rice and wheat producers.

“China is allowed under the WTO to spend on their producers. They’re allowed up to eight and a half percent of the value of the crop on their producers. USTR filings alleged they blew through their commitments by one hundred billion dollars just on those three crops. It’s how do you strike this balance between knowing we are sending them some stuff, but there’s this entire ledger full of things that they’re doing that are largely indefensible?”

Hopes are that phase one of the new trade agreement that President Trump signed with China on January fifteenth will begin to address these issues.