China: Trade probe of U.S. sorghum a ‘normal’ investigation

BEIJING (AP)—A Chinese government spokesman said Feb. 5 an anti-dumping probe of imported U.S. sorghum is a “normal case of trade remedy” following suggestions it might be retaliation for Washington’s investigation of Chinese steel and other goods.

The Ministry of Commerce announced Feb.4 it was investigating whether U.S. sorghum was being exported to China at improperly low prices. That followed White House decisions to raise tariffs on some Chinese-made washing machines and solar power equipment and to investigate steel imports and Beijing’s technology policy.

“I hereby just want to stress that it is merely a normal individual case of trade remedy investigation,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regularly scheduled news briefing.

The Ministry of Commerce said it launched the probe of U.S. sorghum after concluding large volumes and falling prices hurt Chinese producers. It could raise import duties or take other steps if it finds the United States acted improperly.

Businesspeople have suggested Beijing might target U.S. agriculture exports if it wanted to retaliate in the event the Donald Trump administration takes more severe actions on trade.

The U.S. shipped 4.76 million tonnes of sorghum to China in 2017, worth some $1.1 billion. The worry for grain bulls is that with Chinese demand put on hold, U.S. sorghum will back up at home, increasing competition among feed grains—notably corn—for buyers, implying lower prices, according to the British news site Agrimoney.

National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust Feb. 5 released the following statement in response:

“National Sorghum Producers is aware of this action and is prepared to participate fully in the investigations in cooperation with other sorghum industry participants.

“The U.S.-China agricultural relationship is beneficial to U.S. farmers, Chinese consumers, and our respective partners. U.S. sorghum farmers sell their product to our valued partners in China. We appreciate our deep and long-standing relationships within these buyers, and the feed and livestock industries in China. U.S. sorghum farmers do not dump our products into China or elsewhere, and our products are not unfairly subsidized. A fair proceeding will demonstrate these facts.

“This investigation is expected to last a year or more, and we are just at the beginning today. We will provide more information to our farmers and industry as it becomes available and this process moves forward.”

The White House is believed to be on the verge of announcing results of an investigation into whether Beijing improperly pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

Beijing has accused President Donald Trump of threatening the stability of the international trade regulation system by taking action under U.S. law instead of through the World Trade Organization.

U.S.-Chinese trade relations are “mutually beneficial,” Geng said.

“We are willing to deepen reciprocal cooperation with the United States and continue benefiting the two peoples,” he said. “We hope the United States will go along with China to make concrete efforts to this end.”

Senior Field Editor Larry Dreiling contributed to this report.