China - Country Commercial Guide
Agriculture

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-02-03

China’s agricultural imports, exports, and production have expanded greatly since acceding to the WTO in 2001. China was the third largest export market for U.S agricultural product in 2019 at $13.9 billion, down from second place only two years prior. Agricultural and food products face complex, non-transparent and ever-changing regulations in China, which much like other sectors present substantial market access barriers. 

The resolution of these issues and expanding China’s purchase of U.S. agricultural products were priorities in the negotiations of the Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Those issues are summarized in the USTR Fact Sheet.

Phase One Trade Agreement

The Agriculture Chapter of the Phase One Agreement addresses structural barriers to trade and supports a dramatic expansion of U.S. food, agriculture, and seafood product exports, increasing American farm and fishery income, generating more rural economic activity, and promoting job growth. In the agreement, a multitude of non-tariff barriers to U.S. agriculture and seafood products are addressed. A key outcome is China’s commitment to purchase and import on average at least $40 billion of U.S. food, agricultural, and seafood products annually for a total of at least $80 billion over the next two years. Products will cover the full range of U.S. food, agricultural, and seafood products. On top of that, China will strive to import an additional $5 billion per year over the next two years.

Since the agreement went into effect, China has implemented measures that will provide greater access for U.S. producers and exporters and has been increasing purchases. However, there remains work to be done on technical barriers and purchases to ensure China’s commitments are met. 

Tariffs

China imposed additional import tariffs on many U.S. food and agricultural products in response to the United States’ 232 and 301 trade actions. More information about the U.S. products affected by these trade actions is available on the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) website.

In an attempt to facilitate imports of U.S. commodities, China continues to implement a tariff exclusion process (Tariff Exclusion Process Announcement) and importers can now apply for exclusions from retaliatory tariffs. USDA continues to publish guidance for U.S. exporters seeking to participate in this process (USDA Global Agricultural Information Network). Many importers report that they are receiving tariff relief for purchases of U.S. food and agricultural products. 

Regulatory Landscape

China continuously issues new entry requirements – certificates, registration, attestation – that do not necessarily increase product safety but push the onus of ensuring food safety away from Chinese food regulators. Often these new requirements are not notified to the WTO for public comment and are not announced until implementation is imminent. China’s erratic rulemaking also often subjects U.S. products to scrutiny that is not faced by domestic producers.  

Due to the changing regulatory environment in China, U.S. exporters are advised to carefully check import regulations. Individuals and enterprises interested in exporting U.S. agriculture, fishery, and forestry commodities to China should contact the FAS offices (listed below) as well as USDA Cooperator organizations. Exporters of U.S. agricultural commodities should also review the FAS website

Opportunities

The Phase One agreement addresses structural barriers to trade and will support a dramatic expansion of U.S. food, agriculture, and seafood product exports (USTR Fact Sheet) In particular, the agreement presents new or expanded market opportunity for the following products:

USDA Endorsed Trade Shows

Each year, FAS endorses the trade shows that will provide the best international exposure and marketing opportunities for U.S. companies and producers. FAS works with show organizers and other partners to create a “USA Pavilion” to showcase the variety and quality of made-in-America products to potential foreign buyers. FAS also provides participating companies with marketing and promotion services, market intelligence, logistical support, and on-site assistance. In addition, in order to support U.S. agribusiness in today’s ever-changing trade environment, FAS is expanding its trade promotion activities to include virtual trade events.

Exporter Assistance

FAS provides a range of information and programs to help build markets for U.S. agricultural products. 

Those interested in exporting food and agricultural products to China should review the Exporter Guide and Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards (FAIRS) country and certificate reports which are published annually by FAS.  

U.S. Department of Agriculture Office Contacts

Agricultural Trade Office – Beijing: atobeijing@usda.gov
Agricultural Trade Office – Guangzhou: atoguangzhou@usda.gov
Agricultural Trade Office – Shanghai: atoshanghai@usda.gov
Agricultural Trade Office – Shenyang: atoshenyang@usda.gov 
Food Safety Inspection Service: agbeijing@usda.gov
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: Contacts 

Web Resources 

The FAS Website features general information about trade shows and other promotional venues to showcase agricultural products, FAS-sponsored promotional efforts, export financing and assistance, and a directory of registered suppliers and buyers of agricultural, fishery, and forestry goods in the United States and abroad.

The FAS Website also includes a wide range of reports on agriculture, agricultural markets and market access issues and regulations published by FAS.