Market News & Headlines >> U.S. Concerned China May Target Grains

The U.S. is concerned China might impose trade barriers on U.S. grain and soybean sales if trade relations between the world's two largest economies worsen, Jason Hafemeister, trade counsel to the U.S. agriculture secretary, told Reuters News Service last Friday. 

Beijing launched an anti-dumping probe into U.S. sorghum exports in early February without receiving a complaint from China’s feed industry, a move regarded as a warning to Washington, shortly after the U.S. slapped tariffs on imports of solar panels. Since then, there has been concern in the grains trade that China might target more U.S. farmers with measures that would hurt sales of soybeans or other crops. 

"We are aware of these ideas and they are of concern to us since China is such an important market for U.S. farmers," Hafemeister told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry conference. "Our objective is not only to keep our access to China but to expand it more broadly by having China dismantle unjustified barriers,” added Hafemeister, who serves as USDA’s acting deputy undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. 

Asked whether there were grains or specific areas causing more trade concerns than others, he mentioned soybeans and sorghum. "The U.S. exports $14 billion a year of soybeans to China, so that is a very important market," he said. 

There has also been some speculation in the corn market that a reduction in the number of import permits being issued for genetically modified corn by China’s quarantine bureau is trade-related. Chinese buyers reportedly cancelled several cargoes of U.S. corn earlier this year because they could not get import permits. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping's top economic policy adviser, Liu He, was due to arrive in the U.S. today for trade talks, according to China’s Foreign Ministry. Liu will be in the U.S. through March 3, ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing on Monday. The U.S. delegation to the talks will be led U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.