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Chinese grain quotas remain unchanged despite trade deal promise

By Hugh Wilson

Chinese official’s comments raise questions around agricultural component of phase one trade deal

China will not increase import quotas for wheat, corn and rice despite promising to buy more US agricultural products as part of a phase one trade deal.

Han Jun, vice minister of agriculture and rural affairs and a trade deal negotiator, told Chinese media group Caixin (link in Chinese) that China will not adjust global quotas “for just one country".

President Trump’s administration announced in December that it had agreed a phase one trade deal with Beijing. This included a commitment from China to double its purchases of US agricultural products over the next two years.

Jun’s comments will increase speculation about exactly how China will fulfill what President Trump claimed is an obligation to buy $50bn (£37.9bn, €44.6bn) “pretty soon".

China has not publicly confirmed that figure, saying only that it would import goods with “good quality and market competitiveness”. It has been increasing imports of US soya beans.

Some analysts are sceptical about the country’s ability to absorb such a large amount of agricultural imports without harming domestic production.

Jun’s comments have been interpreted as a desire to reassure China’s rural economy. But they risk angering the US just days before the likely signing of the deal on January 15.

The US has long rallied against China’s quota system, claiming that the 65 per cent tariff slapped on grain imports outside quota limits denied US farmers access to Chinese markets.

In April 2019, a World Trade Organisation panel ruled that China’s quota system for rice, wheat and corn violated international trading rules.

FURTHER READING: US and China reach phase one of trade deal

FURTHER READING: US hints tariffs on Chinese imports could be relaxed

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