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China newspaper calls for curbs against US soya bean 'dumping'
[HONG KONG] A newspaper affiliated with China's ruling Communist Party urged "strong restrictive measures" against alleged US soya bean dumping, underscoring concern that trade disputes pressed by US President Donald Trump could extend into other sectors.
The Global Times published an editorial late on Tuesday accusing the US of decimating Chinese growers and breaching of World Trade Organization rules with soya bean subsidies. China is the world's biggest importer of soya beans - consuming about one-third of the US crop - which it uses largely to feed 400 million or so pigs.
"The imported soya beans have taken over the domestic market. An important reason is that imported soya beans, especially from the US, received huge subsidies," the paper said.
"Strong restrictive measures need to be taken against the massive subsidies and dumping of soya beans by some countries on China."
While the Global Times is published by the party's flagship People's Daily newspaper, it sometimes takes more hawkish positions and doesn't necessary reflect the views of the leadership in Beijing. No formal anti-dumping investigation has been started, although Bloomberg News reported in February that President Xi Jinping's government was studying the impact of restricting soya bean imports in retaliation for US tariffs.
Any China soya bean curbs would directly hit farmers in Midwestern US states crucial to Mr Trump's efforts to retain Republican control of Congress in November elections. Still, any action by Beijing risks pushing up feed costs for the world's largest pork producer and consumer. Higher costs for pig farmers could increase meat prices for China's 1.4 billion citizens, an issue not addressed in the editorial.
Mr Trump has called on China to reduce the US's US$375 billion trade deficit with the country by as much as US$100 billion while threatening unilateral action to correct the imbalance. In addition to broader tariffs on steel and aluminum, he is considering duties worth as much as US$60 billion on Chinese products.
Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijiun suggested in a tweet that such a response was on the table. "I'm sure if Trump imposes high tariffs on imported products from China, the backlash will first come to American soya beans worth over US$10 billion sold to China every year. This is no casual comment," Mr Hu wrote.
Meanwhile, the New York-based investment bank Vertical Group said an increase in China's sow herd meant that US pork imports were an "easy target" amid escalating trade tensions. A decline in Chinese hog prices of as much as 30 per cent in the past three months made it an "opportune" time to ban imports of American pork, it said in a report.