U.S. files complaint against China over trade violations

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The United States filed an official complaint with the World Trade Organization on Thursday, alleging that China is not complying with market access commitments to allow American farmers to export corn, rice and wheat into the country.

The complaint, the 15th filed against China by the Obama administration since 2009, argues that China is not “transparent, predictable or fair” in its administration of tariff-rate quotients, which protect its domestic farmers by taxing imports at a higher rate.

The complaint alleges that China is not letting in the amount of imports it pledged to bring in at lower tax rates, unfairly cutting American farmers out of the market. The complaint also says that China fails to properly notify “total quantities permitted to be imported and changes to the total quantity permitted to be imported.”

For American farmers, that would’ve meant increased crop exports to China worth as much $3.5 billion in 2015 alone – a sizable chunk considering U.S. rice, wheat, and corn exports worldwide are worth an average averaged $20 billion per year.

“Today’s new challenge – as well as the steps we are taking to advance our case against China’s excessive government support for rice, wheat, and corn – demonstrates again the Obama Administration’s strong and continued commitment to enforcing the rules of global trade, and protecting the interests and livelihoods of American farmers,” said United States Trade Representative Michael Froman in a news release announcing the complaint.

“Although China has become a significant market for our grain exports, we could be doing much better than we are today. When China joined the WTO, it committed to implementing an agriculture regime that would facilitate market access consistent with international obligations. However, China has frustrated exporters through generous price support and unjustified market restrictions,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release.

The United States also announced Thursday that it requested the WTO set up a settlement panel on a similar complaint filed in September, alleging China provides too much support to its local markets on these crops.

According to Froman’s office, China spends more than $100 billion than it should under WTO commitments to buy domestic crops, driving up prices and, therefore production, in China and not leaving room for other producers to enter the market in the world’s largest country.

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