U.S.-China Trade/Retaliatory Measures Imposed on U.S. Red Meat

UPDATE: On April 2, 2018, in response to the Chinese government’s announcement that it is placing an additional 25 percent retaliatory duty on imports of U.S. pork in response to U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, USMEF issued the following media statement:

Statement from U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Dan Halstrom:

We regret the Chinese government’s decision to impose an additional 25 percent duty on imports of U.S. pork and pork variety meat. The United States is a reliable supplier of pork products to China, and this decision will have an immediate impact on U.S. producers and exporters, as well as our customers in China. We are hopeful that the additional duties can be rescinded quickly, so that U.S. pork can again compete on a level playing field with pork from other exporting countries. Exports have been a key driver of growth in the U.S. pork industry, and with nearly 27 percent of U.S. pork production exported last year, international trade is critical to the continued success and profitability of the U.S. industry. China is a leading destination for U.S. pork and especially for pork variety meat. In 2017, U.S. exported 495,637 metric tons (mt) of pork and pork variety meat to China/Hong Kong, valued at $1.08 billion – our second-largest international market by volume and third-largest by value. For pork variety meat exports only, this was our largest destination in both volume (321,116 mt) and value ($741.8 million), accounting for 63 percent of U.S. export value. Variety meat exports make a critical contribution to industry profitability, and last year these exports to China/Hong Kong alone equated to more than $6.00 per U.S. hog slaughtered. With U.S. exporters facing tariff and non-tariff barriers in China and other key markets, it is especially important to expand and diversify our export destinations for U.S. red meat. USMEF is working constantly to identify new and emerging markets in regions such as Central and South America, Southeast Asia and Africa, and to expand our customer base in mainstay markets such as Mexico, Japan, South Korea and Canada.

UPDATE: On April 4, 2018, in response to the Chinese government announcing a proposal to levy retaliatory tariffs of 25 percent on China’s imports of agricultural and food products from the United States, including U.S. beef, USMEF issued the following media statement:

Statement from U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Dan Halstrom:

China is a promising market for U.S. beef, and, since the June 2017 reopening, the U.S. industry has made an exceptional effort to provide customers with high-quality beef at an affordable price. This is not an easy task, due to our 13-year absence from the market and China’s beef import requirements.

Over the past nine months, interest in U.S. beef has steadily gained momentum in China and our customer base has grown. But if an additional import tariff is imposed on U.S. beef, these constructive business relationships, and opportunities for further growth, will be put at risk. USMEF is hopeful that this trade dispute can be resolved without China introducing additional obstacles for U.S. beef.

In the second half of 2017, following the market reopening, U.S. beef exports to China totaled 3,020 metric tons valued at $31 million. Through April 2018, exports totaled $21.3 million.

Please note: China’s proposed tariff on U.S. beef is not in response to the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. Rather, it is in response to a recent U.S. proposal to impose tariffs on imports from China as a result of an investigation into the forced transfer of U.S. technology and intellectual property. China has not yet imposed an additional tariff on U.S. beef, but the tariff rate is expected to increase from 12 percent to 37 percent on July 6.

U.S. pork is being hit by retaliatory tariffs in response to BOTH the steel and aluminum tariffs and the tariffs related to technology and intellectual property. On July 6, USMEF anticipates that the tariff rate will climb from 37 percent to 62 percent.

UPDATE: On May 24, the Commerce Department initiated an investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act to determine whether U.S. imports of automobiles and automotive parts threaten to impair national security. It remains to be seen whether this investigation impacts trade of other goods, but the announcement drew a strong reaction from several trading partners.

UPDATE: See USMEF’s detailed analysis of the retaliatory tariffs imposed by China on U.S. pork and beef here: FULL REPORT ON CHINA

And the analysis of the tariffs imposed on U.S. pork by Mexico here: FULL REPORT ON MEXICO

The other country that has targeted U.S. red meat for retaliatory tariffs is Canada. Its proposed retaliation list includes two HS Code lines for Chapter 16 Prepared Beef Products, from which Canada’s 2017 imports from the U.S. were valued at $164 million.

UPDATE: In late August 2018, USTR announced that the United States and Mexico reached an agreement in principle on key issues under discussion in the NAFTA renegotiations. A USTR fact sheet states that tariffs on agricultural products traded between the United States and Mexico will remain at zero. However, Mexico has not yet been exempted from the United States’ steel and aluminum tariffs and so Mexico’s retaliatory duties on U.S. pork remain in place. The Trump administration then notified Congress of its intent to sign an agreement with Mexico. Canada is not included in the agreement, but negotiations with Canada are ongoing.

While USMEF is pleased with the progress in reaching an agreement with Mexico, removing the retaliatory duties on U.S. pork remains the most immediate concern for the U.S. meat industry.

UPDATE: On Sept. 17, 2018, USTR released a list of approximately $200 billion worth of Chinese imports that will be subject to additional tariffs beginning Sept. 24. The initial tariff rate will be 10 percent but it is set to increase to 25 percent on Jan. 1, 2019. HS 0504 sausage casing imports from China were not included on the final list.

In response, the Chinese government announced its retaliatory measures. Effective Sept. 24, 2018, China imposed additional tariffs on approximately $60 billion in imports from the United States, including an additional 10 percent tariff on pork stomachs and casings (HS0504). Other U.S. red meat products are included on the latest retaliation list, but they are items not currently eligible for export to China. Hog sausage casings and stomachs were the only significant red meat export items that had not yet been included on China’s retaliatory tariff lists.

UPDATE: USMEF issued this statement in response to the White House announcement and the signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which took place Nov. 30, 2018.

UPDATE: On Dec. 1, 2018, the White House announced that the U.S. and China will enter negotiations on several key trade issues, including agricultural trade, and established March 1, 2019 as the target date for resolving current trade disputes. Three rounds of talks have taken place in early 2019, but few details have been revealed. A U.S. delegation will travel to Beijing for the next round of talks the week of March 25, 2019, with another round to follow the week of April 1, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: In a March 2019 guest column in National Hog Farmer Magazine, USMEF discusses the mounting costs retaliatory duties have imposed on the U.S. pork industry. Read the full article online.

UPDATE: In early April 2019, news reports from Canada and Mexico suggested that both countries are preparing to make changes in the lists of U.S. products subject to retaliatory duties. There is some speculation that Mexico could add U.S. beef to its list and that Canada could possibly add pork, but no specifics are available at this time.

UPDATE: The White House announced that a U.S. delegation will travel to Beijing for another round of trade talks beginning April 30, with an additional round scheduled to begin on May 8 in Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: On May 17, 2019, USTR announced the removal of Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico and Canada and elimination of those countries’ retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. On May 20, the Mexican government published the official notice removing Mexico’s retaliatory duties on U.S. pork and Canada’s Department of Finance announced that Canada had eliminated the 10% tariff Canada imposed on prepared beef items imported from the United States.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom issued this statement:

Restoring duty-free access to the Mexican and Canadian markets is a tremendous breakthrough for the U.S. red meat industry. USMEF thanks President Trump and Ambassador Robert Lighthizer for reaching an agreement with Mexico and Canada on steel and aluminum tariffs and in turn Mexico and Canada’s lifting of the retaliatory duties on U.S. red meat. This also removes a significant obstacle for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and USMEF is hopeful that all three countries ratify USMCA as soon as possible.

UPDATE: The news is not nearly as positive with regard to China. While U.S.-China talks appeared to be making progress through the first few months of 2019, negotiations have largely broken down and the tariff battle has heightened.

On May 10, 2019, the U.S. raised the Section 301 tariff rate from 10% to 25% on $200 billion in Chinese goods and USTR announced that President Trump has also ordered the agency to begin the process of raising tariffs on “essentially all remaining imports from China.” A public hearing on this plan will be held June 17.

In response, China’s Ministry of Finance announced additional tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. products effective June 1, 2019. Most U.S. pork and beef items, which are already subject to significant retaliatory duties (detailed below), are not affected by China’s latest action. However, the retaliatory duty on U.S. casings and stomachs increased from 10% (imposed in September 2018) to 25%. So the total duty rate for U.S. hog casings and stomachs entering China is now 45% (normal rate of 20% + additional 25%) and for sheep casings the rate is 43% (normal rate of 18% + additional 25%).

For most U.S. pork entering China, the total duty rate remains at 62% (normal rate of 12% + 50% retaliatory duties) and for U.S. beef the total rate is 37% (normal rate of 12% + 25% retaliatory duty).

UPDATE: Following a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, high-level U.S.-China trade talks resumed, with the two sides meeting July 30-31, 2019 in Shanghai. The next round of talks was expected to be held in September, but tensions escalated in early August when President Trump announced that the U.S. would impose additional 10% tariffs on $300 billion in goods imported from China, effective Sept. 1. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said China will “take necessary countermeasures” but did not provide further details. News reports have stated that China ordered state-owned enterprises to halt purchases of U.S. agricultural products, but no specifics have been made available. USMEF has handled requests for comment with great caution, as it is better not to speculate about the impact of such a move without sufficient details.

UPDATE: On Aug. 13, 2019, USTR announced its next steps regarding imposition of the new Section 301 tariffs on additional goods imported from China. For certain products the 10% tariff will be delayed until Dec. 15, including cell phones, laptop computers, video game consoles, certain toys, computer monitors and certain items of footwear and clothing. It is not yet clear if U.S.-China trade talks will resume in September, as previously announced.

UPDATE: Effective Sept. 1, 2019, China imposed an additional 10% retaliatory duty on U.S. pork and beef, raising the effective rate on most U.S. pork items to 72% and the effective rate on U.S. beef to 47%. Staff-level trade talks between the U.S. and China resumed Sept. 19, 2019, as the two sides began laying the groundwork for ministerial-level talks planning for early October.

UPDATE: On Sept. 13, 2019, China’s state news agency, Xinhua, ran an article stating that China would exclude some U.S. agricultural products such as pork and soybeans from additional tariffs. But no official announcements have been made by the Chinese government and USMEF has no additional information.

UPDATE: On Oct. 11, 2019, trade officials from the U.S. and China, including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, concluded two days of ministerial-level trade talks Friday in Washington, D.C.

Following a meeting with Liu, President Trump told reporters that the two sides have agreed to the first phase of a trade deal that will cover agricultural purchases, currency and some intellectual property protections. The U.S. also agreed to postpone a tariff rate increase (from 25% to 30%) on about $250 billion of goods imported from China that was set to take effect Oct. 15.

UPDATE: Negotiators were targeting the mid-November 2019 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Chile as a possible venue for signing a Phase One U.S.-China agreement, but this event was cancelled due to unrest in Chile. Ministerial-level talks continue, but the timeline for reaching a Phase One agreement remains unclear. In the meantime, U.S. pork and beef remain at a severe tariff disadvantage in China.

UPDATE: On Dec. 13, 2019, USTR announced that the U.S. and China have reached a “Phase One” trade deal. More details on the agreement are in this USTR press release, including these specific points:

  • Requires structural reforms and other changes to China’s economic and trade regime in the areas of intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, and currency and foreign exchange
  • Includes a commitment by China that it will make substantial additional purchases of U.S. goods and services in the coming years
  • Establishes a strong dispute resolution system that ensures prompt and effective implementation and enforcement
  • While the United States has agreed to modify its Section 301 tariff actions in a significant way, the U.S. will be maintaining 25 percent tariffs on approximately $250 billion of Chinese imports, along with 7.5 percent tariffs on approximately $120 billion of Chinese imports.

UPDATE: On Jan. 1, 2020, China lowered its standard most-favored-nation tariff rate on imported frozen pork muscle cuts from 12% to 8%. While U.S. products qualify for the lower rates, no changes to China’s retaliatory duties on U.S. pork or U.S. beef were announced. So the total tariff rate on most U.S. pork entering China fell from 72% to 68%, while most suppliers will pay only 8%.

UPDATE: On Jan. 15, 2020, President Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed the U.S.-China “Phase One” trade agreement.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom issued this statement:

For the U.S. pork and beef industries to expand their business in China, the world’s largest and fastest-growing destination for imported red meat, it is critically important that China follows international standards for pork and beef trade. The Phase One trade agreement lays important groundwork toward this goal, and USMEF thanks the Trump administration for addressing the barriers that have hampered U.S. pork and beef exports to China for many years.

Last year China’s red meat imports exceeded $14 billion, a 65% increase from 2018. The U.S. industry looks forward to capturing a greater share of this rapidly growing market.

USMEF summarized key provisions of the agreement in the Jan. 17 edition of the USMEF Export Newsline. If you receive a media request on this topic please contact Joe Schuele at or 303-547-0030.