China still considering curbs on US soya bean imports: American council

China is the world's biggest soya bean importer and the US is its second-largest supplier.
China is the world's biggest soya bean importer and the US is its second-largest supplier.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China is still considering import curbs on US soybeans in retaliation for moves by Washington to impose trade tariffs, US Soybean Export Council Asia director Paul Burke said on Thursday (March 29), following a meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture.  

The ministry requested an informal meeting in Beijing with the council, Burke told Reuters by phone. The meeting, which took place on Monday, was attended by the US trade group’s China director, Xiaoping Zhang, along with officials from the ministry’s department of international relations. 

In his comments, Burke rejected a report in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post that the council’s meeting with the ministry had been part of official talks aimed at shielding American soybeans. 

“The agriculture ministry wanted to discuss our view of the soybean industry regarding tariffs and the supply and demand situation,” Burke said.

“We are cautiously optimistic soybeans won’t be targeted, but they’re still on the table.”

A trade spat between the world’s top two economies is escalating, with US President Donald Trump preparing to slap tariffs on US$50 billion in Chinese imports over the alleged forced transfer of intellectual property. 

Soybeans were the top US agricultural export to China last year, worth more than US$12 billion. China is the world’s biggest soybean importer and the U.S. is its second-largest supplier. 

In an editorial on Thursday, the China Daily newspaper said Beijing could target a broad range of US businesses form agriculture to aircraft, autos and semiconductors if the conflict escalates.