US meat industry concerned about China response to new tariffs

By Ed Zwirn, In New York

- Last updated on GMT

US meat industry concerned about China response to new tariffs

Related tags: Beef, Pork, Game

Members of the US meat industry, already buckling under the impact of previous Chinese retaliatory tariffs against their goods, have expressed cautious concern following the US imposition of 25% tariffs against an additional US$200bn of Chinese exports.

Kent Bacus, senior director of international trade at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), said that while his body supported the ongoing trade talks interrupted by this tariff hike, notably the Trump administration’s efforts “to open the Chinese market for US beef and other agricultural goods,”​ a Chinese duty increase would cause problems.

Trade was already hindered by Chinese protection, he said: “We produce safe and high-quality beef that Chinese consumers desire, but we cannot meet Chinese demand with massive tariff and non-tariff trade barriers in place.”

He was “hopeful”​ that President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping would “succeed in negotiating a mutually-beneficial trade deal that expands access for US beef producers”​.

Joe Schuele, spokesperson for the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), said of the potential risk of Chinese retaliation: “We don’t know what the impact will be because China hasn’t said what it will do in response,”​ citing hits already taken by US meat exporters in the trade war.

“Pork has already been hit twice with retaliatory tariffs and is at a 62% tariff level, versus the 12% it would normally be if there were no trade agreement,”​ he pointed out. “Beef has been hit once, so it’s at 37% versus 12%. It’s not possible for me to predict what China will do.”

Overall US pork export volumes were down 9% from a year ago in February to 186,745 tonnes, while export value dropped 17% to US$455.9m — the lowest monthly value total since February 2016, USMEF reported in April. For January through February, pork exports were 5% below last year’s pace in volume (388,580 tonnes) and 13% lower in value (US$950m).

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