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China Imposes Tariffs on US Agricultural Products, Effective Today

April 02, 2018

China today made good on its March 23 threat to respond to tariffs and planned trade actions against Chinese goods that were recently announced by the US government. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) posted on its website a statement, dated April 1, which instructed customs officials to today being immediately levying additional tariffs on top of any existing tariffs on 128 types of products originating from the US, including a 15% tariff on most US fresh and dried fruits and nuts.

The list of specific products and tariff rates released today is similar to the list that MOFCOM had earlier proposed on March 23. It includes all US fresh fruits that currently have market access to be imported into China, each of which will be subject to a 15% additional tariff.

Among fresh fruits that are most likely to be impacted immediately are US citrus fruits such as navel oranges, which are currently on the tail end of the season, but are still being seen arriving on the China market. More significantly, the California cherry season begins in May, followed in June by that of Washington. According to the Northwest Horticultural Council, 35% of last year’s Pacific Northwest sweet cherry crop was exported. China edged out Canada as the top export market, with 5.95 million pounds (2.7 million kg) of imports.

The most recent iteration of the US fresh fruit market access list is as follows: California plums; Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho cherries; California grapes; apples; California, Florida, Arizona, and Texas citrus; California, Washington and Oregon pears; and California strawberries.

In the nut category, almonds, pistachios and walnuts are all mentioned on the list of US products to be levied with an additional 15% tariff, all in both their shelled and unshelled forms, alongside smaller export crops like macadamias and hazelnuts.

The story with dried fruits is similar. Raisins, prunes figs, dried apples, and several others are all on the list at 15% additional tariff. Also on the list are mixtures of dried fruits and/or nuts that contain any of the other products on MOFCOM’s list.

The large domestic market for US fruit and nuts will insulate many suppliers to an extent, and the specific impact of the Chinese tariffs will vary depending on the product and industry; but exporters are nevertheless overall concerned about the tariffs themselves and the possibility of further escalation between China and the US that could result in measures against US agricultural products.

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Trade Office, the U.S. exported $19.6b worth of agricultural goods to China last year, making it the second largest market for US agricultural product exports in 2017. According to Census Bureau trade data, the US exported at least $241.8m worth of edible tree nuts, $225.8m in fresh fruit, and $29.7m in dried fruits to mainland China in 2017.

Some other agricultural products proposed for tariff include ginseng, wine and a range of pork products, with pork products subject to a 25% additional tariff.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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