Slow cooker: China gives final approval to imports of rice from US after inspection procedures put in place

  • US producers can now sell into world’s largest rice market after phytosanitary standards and procedures set out in 2017 agreement are reached
PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 7:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 11:16pm

China has given final clearance for US imports into the world’s largest rice market, as the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies is on hold for talks and concessions.

American rice was cleared for import from Thursday, Chinese customs officials announced.

“According to the relevant Chinese laws and the conditions set out in the agreed phytosanitary protocol, the US is permitted to export rice to China,” the agency said.

US-China trade war: a timeline from first tariffs to the 90-day truce

China agreed to open its rice market to US producers after a deal was struck in 2017. It did not take effect straight away as inspection procedures had to be put in place.

The customs announcement is the latest step for Beijing towards opening its markets since Chinese President Xi Jinping and his American counterpart Donald Trump met on December 1 and agreed to a 90-day period to work towards a trade deal. Part of that agreement was that China would buy more US agricultural produce.

China has since then bought more than 1.5 million tonnes of soybeans and resumed buying liquefied gas.

The US keeps a long list of complaints against China on intellectual property, forced technology transfers and industrial subsidies. Trump said China used “unfair trade practices”, which led to a trade deficit that he promised to cut.

Negotiations on opening China’s rice market to the US started more than a decade ago. China’s demands for rice surged after it joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, but a lack of plant health protocols stalled imports, trade group USA Rice said.

China imported about 5 million tonnes of rice in 2016, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, the US exports 3 million to 4 million tonnes of rice per year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture organisation.

US rice products will face competition in China, where Vietnam and Thailand are major rice exporters.