Byron ChaitThe US and China’s border dispute, a border dispute that has divided the two nations for more than two decades, is now threatening to undermine the entire food supply chain.
The trade war has become so intractable that it has put the lives of thousands of workers at the center of the equation.
The United States has accused China of illegally blocking US imports of the food it uses to make its most popular dishes, and the two sides have engaged in a prolonged battle to resolve the dispute.
A Chinese government report released Wednesday showed that China had closed all of its ports on US soil to prevent the shipment of some 80% of US beef to China.
The move, the report said, would have a “severe adverse effect on US agricultural production.”
In the past, China’s food imports from the US totaled $1.5 billion annually, according to a 2016 report by the Agriculture Department, and more than 40% of that is fed to US cattle.
The report did not say how many of those shipments came from US ports.
The USDA’s report said China has also been “deploying economic warfare to block US imports and impose trade restrictions on US exporters.”
“In the event that [US beef] were to be diverted to China, the impact on US farm products would be significant,” the report states.
That could have a negative impact on the US food supply, according the report, because Chinese food imports would also be a major contributor to the price of US meat, which has been in free fall since the end of last year.US food and grain producers and agribusinesses have been scrambling to find new sources of supply for beef and other crops that are used to make Chinese dishes like beef brisket and beef short ribs, which are typically exported to China but are not grown locally.
But with the Chinese economy struggling and its own food imports falling, the US beef industry is worried that the impact of a trade war could extend to their livelihoods.
The Department of Agriculture, in its report, says that “some 90% of beef produced in the US by US beef producers is fed back to Chinese farmers, with the vast majority being imported from the Chinese market.”
In the short term, China is able to raise beef on US farms.
But, the USDA report said in its draft, that will be offset by the impact that a trade conflict could have on US beef, which could have an adverse effect not only on the quality of beef in US supply chains, but also on the economic health of US farmers.
The United Nations food agency, the World Food Programme, is currently warning that food prices could skyrocket if China doesn’t comply with the WTO’s new rules that require China to adhere to the same environmental standards as other WTO members.
The rules were announced last week and were designed to ensure that the food supply chains in China and the US meet a level playing field.
The WTO rules have been met with widespread protests and protests across the world, but the rules have yet to be fully implemented in all countries.
The WTO is expected to give its final approval for the rules in January.