By Barbara Olejnik
Poultry Times staff
GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Trade relations between the U.S. and China have become increasingly uncertain as both countries have announced tariffs on specific imported products from the opposite nation.
The situation began in early March when President Trump instituted tariffs on imported steel and aluminum products.
Trump said the U.S. would impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.
In a proclamation signed March 8, Trump said, "Today, I am defending America's national security by placing tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum."
That move was applauded by the U.S. steel industry which has accused China and other countries of dumping cheap steel into U.S. markets in violation of world trade regulations.
China is ranked 10th in steel imports to the U.S. Canada is the leading importer of steel to the U.S. shipping nearly 5.7 million tons in 2017. Fifteen percent of U.S. imported aluminum is shipped from China, ranking third behind Canada at 37 percent and Mexico at 20 percent.
Canada and Mexico, which are in discussions with the U.S. over renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement, are excluded from the tariffs on steel and aluminum. Also excluded from the tariffs are the European Union, South Korea and Brazil.
Agricultural groups expressed concern that the tariffs would also cause other countries to institute their own tariffs against U.S. products.
The American Soybean Association was one of the most outspoken, calling for President Trump to revise or even rescind the tariffs.
In a letter to Trump, the association urged the president to "modify if not reverse (his) decision to avoid a trade war that could seriously undermine our industry, which is highly dependent on trade."
The association pointed out that in the last 10 years, China has become the largest customer of U.S. soybeans. In 2017, China imported 1.4 billion bushels from the U.S., 61 percent of total soybean exports and nearly one out of every three rows of soybean production.
More than 100 members of the House of Representatives have also urged Trump to reconsider tariffs, warning that they would cost American jobs, raise prices for consumers and hurt domestic manufacturing.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also expressed concern about the potential for retaliation and a trade war.
Others warning about a possible trade war resulting from the imposition of the steel and aluminum tariffs were the National Corn Growers Association and the U.S. Grains Council.
The European Union also warned that it would respond with its own 25 percent tariff on $23.5 billion of U.S. goods if President Trump goes forward with the tariffs.
China also weighed in on the discussion surrounding the U.S. imposition of tariffs.
Wany Yi, China's foreign minister, who spoke at the National People's Congress in Beijing in early March, vowed a "justified and necessary response to any efforts to incite a trade war." He urged the U.S. to work with China on a mutually beneficial solution.
However, on March 22, President Trump announced he would impose approximately $60 billion worth of annual tariffs on Chinese imports to combat what the White House says is a pattern of co-opting American technology and trade secrets.
The president blames China for the loss of 60,000 factories and 6 million jobs. He has said that unfair Chinese trade practices have caused the U.S. trade deficit with China to reach a record $375 billion.
The Chinese tariffs are expected to target 1,300 lines of Chinese goods, everything from shoes and clothing to electronics as well as Chinese industries that produce electric vehicles, high-tech shipping and aerospace technology.
President Trump will also direct the Treasury Department to impose restrictions on Chinese investment in U.S. technology companies.
In responding to this announcement, the National Chicken Council said it commends the Trump administration efforts "to assist U.S. businesses and their employees by seeking more balanced and transparent trade with China."
NCC President Mike Brown said that "While the ramifications of this action are still unknown, it is important to note that U.S. broiler products have been unfairly blocked from China's market by their imposition of unjustified anti-dumping tariffs on our products, which a recent WTO (World Trade Organization) decision confirmed as being unjustified.
"In addition, China has maintained a non-scientific trade barrier against U.S. broiler products based upon the occurrence of highly pathogenic avian influenza now three years in the past," Brown added.
The imposition of $60 billion in tariffs against Chinese goods has resulted in retaliation measures imposed by China against U.S. imported goods.
On April 2, the Chinese government listed 128 U.S.-made products across seven categories that will be subject to a 25 percent tariff and involves U.S. exports to China of some $3 billion.
Included in the list are pork and pork products, fresh fruits, dried fruits and nut products, wines, modified ethanol, American ginseng, seamless steel pipes and recycled aluminum
China in 2017 was the second largest volume market and third largest value market for U.S. pork exports, totaling more than $1.1 billion.
The North American Meat Institute President and CEP Barry Carpenter noted that "The decision by the Chinese government to levy 25 percent tariffs on U.S. pork will significantly curtail exports to this critical market at a time when China is expanding hog production, pushing domestic pork prices lower.
"These retaliatory tariffs will disproportionately affect hardworking American pork packers and producers, who will bear the main burden of these measures in the form of lost revenue and restricted market access," Carpenter added.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall has said that "If the trade situation continues to deteriorate, our lives as farmers and ranchers will become more difficult."
He noted that America's farmers and ranchers export more than $21 billion of farm products to China — more than 20 percent of their production — and the Farm Bureau is "very concerned about retaliation resulting from the tariffs."