China allows first-ever imports of US rice ahead of trade talks


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China allows first-ever imports of US rice ahead of trade talks

The world’s largest rice market, China, finally opened for US imports, its national customs body announced on Thursday. The move comes as the world’s two largest economies are set to hold negotiations amid the trade war ceasefire.

Chinese customs said the American rice was cleared for import after going through the required food safety check. The amount of rice Beijing is going to receive from the US was not immediately clear, while China already imports the cereal mostly from Asian countries, including its top exporters Vietnam and Thailand, to fulfill its growing demand.

The move comes after more than decade-long talks on the matter. The two nations inked a deal for US milled rice in 2017. In April, nearly 30 American facilities completed China’s food safety questionnaires and were waiting for a Chinese inspection visit, according to the USA Rice Federation.

“We believe access for US rice can and should be part of the solution in trade talks between China and the United States,” USA Rice COO Bob Cummings said in April.

Despite not ever being allowed, US rice imports to China were targeted with 25 percent additional levies at the height of the trade row, when the Trump administration levied an additional 25 percent import duty on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Opening the market for American rice imports is believed to be another goodwill gesture from Beijing after Chinese and American leaders agreed on a 90-day truce. The US delegation, including some high profile officials, is to head to Beijing in January to hold a new round of talks, according to Bloomberg. Earlier this month, China confirmed that negotiations are to take place in January, but did not elaborate on the exact date.

Since the trade war was paused, Beijing has already bought more than 1.5 million tons of soybeans, resumed buying liquefied gas (LNG) and announced a temporary suspension of additional tariffs on US-produced vehicles and auto parts.