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Phase One Trade Deal Should Restore China’s Demand for U.S. Wheat

Posted: Jan 15 2020

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) are very encouraged by the signing of a Phase One trade agreement with China. Chinese imports of U.S. soft white (SW), hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat classes were trending up before abruptly ending when China implemented retaliatory tariffs on U.S. wheat and other agricultural commodities in March 2018.

“Even though China has huge domestic wheat stocks, they were buying more U.S. wheat because they needed it to meet growing demand for higher quality wheat foods,” said Vince Peterson, President of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the organization funded by farmers and the U.S. government to promote wheat exports. “The losses we demonstrated soon after China stopped importing U.S. wheat have only grown since then, so we hope the agreement signed today signals a potential turn-around.”

Adding to the optimism is China’s separate agreement to work toward filling its 9.6 million metric ton (MMT) reduced tariff rate quota (TRQ) for wheat imports. If the changes are in fact implemented, and Chinese millers can respond to market signals, most of the TRQ should be used. For U.S. wheat farmers, the Phase One deal and TRQ compliance would create a very welcome opportunity for Chinese miller customers to once again apply the technical expertise and assistance USW provides to use wheat with specialized end-use applications that distinguishes U.S. wheat from domestic Chinese supplies.

“Wheat farmers have experienced the harm of unfair trading practices at the hands of China for far too long, as reinforced by the recent WTO wins. This step forward in negotiations between the U.S and China is a tremendous way to begin the new year,” stated NAWG CEO Chandler Goule. “As part of its Winter Conference this week, NAWG and its states will hold several meetings on The Hill where it will be stressed to Members and staff the need to continue expanding our international markets, including to swiftly move forward with Phase One of U.S.-China trade deal.”

Re-opening China would be a huge lift for wheat farmers who are still producing a quality product in spite of the income challenges they have faced for several years. USW and NAWG want to thank the negotiators in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for their dedicated effort to create this opportunity and we look forward to learning more details about the agreement.

“Our organization and the farmers we represent agree with the Trump Administration that China has not been transparent about its protectionist policies,” Peterson said. “Now it remains to be seen if China will comply fully with its WTO commitments and this new agreement so that trade between our two countries can flourish.”

USW and NAWG are especially pleased that the agreement contains structural changes to how U.S. exporters access the Chinese market. U.S. negotiators should be commended for seeing the opportunity to build on our wins at the WTO against China’s TRQ administration and agricultural subsidy policies by including provisions on administration and transparency of policies.

The additional commitments included in the agreement contain important transparency measures, such as reporting on TRQ awards and operation of subsidy programs in addition to reaffirming commitments on eligibility for access to TRQ.

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