The Obama administration announced a new challenge over Beijing’s barriers to American rice, wheat and corn, attacking a policy that U.S. officials say prevented as much of $3.5 billion in agriculture shipments to China.
U.S. trade lawyers accused China Thursday of improperly administering a program designed to put limits on grain imports to the country, violating international agreements. The case at the World Trade Organization, which China joined 15 years ago, follows a previous U.S. challenge this year over China’s alleged subsidies for its domestic cereal production.
In the new case, the U.S. says Beijing appears to be operating its complicated import barriers known as tariff-rate quotas, or TRQs, in ways that disadvantage U.S. growers through lack of transparency and unreasonable implementation.
“China’s TRQ policies breach their WTO commitments and limit opportunities for U.S. farmers to export competitively priced, high-quality grains to customers in China,” U.S. trade representative Michael Froman said in a statement.
U.S. exports of wheat, rice and corn to China last year fell to $381 million, compared with $2.3 billion in 2013, according to the Census Bureau. By comparison, soybean exports to China, used to fatten Chinese hogs, were worth $10.5 billion last year.
The Obama administration has challenged China 15 times at the WTO, representing a majority of its two-dozen WTO legal actions against trading partners over the last eight years. President-elect Donald Trump, who made criticism of China’s trade practices a centerpiece of his campaign, could further step up pressure on Beijing next year.
A spokesman for China’s embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.
By WILLIAM MAULDIN, The Wall Street Journal