The lack of progress is a breach of its WTO pledge, the American envoy warns The US Trade Office's agricultural negotiator yesterday accused China of not complying with the agreement it made upon joining the World Trade Organisation. US chief agricultural negotiator Allen Johnson left Beijing without an agreement in hand and had his office issue a press release accusing the Chinese side of stonewalling on market access. 'China offers American agriculture huge opportunities but right now American farmers are not getting the access the Chinese promised and which the WTO mandates,' said Mr Johnson. Though he left for meetings in Japan, his delegation continued discussing their grievances with officials from the Ministry of Commerce, the State Development and Reform Commission and other agencies. The topic of debate centres on China's tariff-rate quotas, which are required for importing all kinds of agricultural commodities. Mr Johnson alleges that a complicated quota system restricts American cotton, wheat, corn and soy bean oil. During talks this week, the US side brought up concerns of transparency, burdensome licensing requirements and the allocation of commercially viable quantities. Chinese agriculture experts say the mainland has a huge stake in protecting its state-run agricultural trading companies and that these firms have an interest in buying from a variety of countries, not only the US. Zhang Xiaoping, a spokesman for the American Soybean Association, said the Chinese side had made some concessions in recent months but that much remains to be done to remove all of the trade barriers. 'The importation of soybean oil has come a long way,' said Mr Zhang. 'From September to now, the US has sold more than 7.4 million tonnes of soybean. This is a historic high.' However, problems remain in the administration of import licences, especially when it comes to US genetically modified soya bean, which makes up 70 per cent of US production. For example, officials at the Ministry of Agriculture have delayed coming out with a policy statement on genetically modified soya bean and continue to keep a temporary handling policy. The temporary policy allows for imports up to a certain date of delivery. In addition, the Agriculture Ministry requires importers to get an 'inspection' permit 30 days before the signing of a purchase contract. And the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine also requires an 'inspection' permit, which can only be issued once an importer gets the permit from the Agricultural Ministry. It therefore takes importers up to 60 days to wait for permits before they can place orders for soya beans. 'Many people feel this is unfair and doesn't suit market needs and mechanisms,' said Mr Zhang. 'Commodity prices change by the day. How can you buy a product at a good price this way?' Some progress was made during the talks to resolve the complications, however. Both sides agreed to reconvene technical experts to attempt to resolve various outstanding issues.