China rejects U.S. complaint against chicken tariffs
The price of American chicken, including the prized feet euphemistically called "phoenix talons" in China, shot up between 50% and 100%, which will cost the U.S. poultry industry an estimated $1 billion in sales by the end of this year.
With that in mind, the U.S. Trade Representative's office announced Tuesday that it had filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization saying China violated international trade rules when it imposed anti-dumping and countervailing duties on U.S. chicken.
"China seems to have failed to observe numerous transparency and due-process requirements, failed to properly explain the basis for its findings and conclusions, incorrectly calculated dumping margins, incorrectly calculated subsidy rates and made unsupported findings of injury to China's domestic industry," the trade office said.
In a response Wednesday, China's Ministry of Commerce released a brief statement rejecting the U.S. claim.
"China's anti-dumping measures follow the law and are in accordance with WTO rules," the statement said. "China will study requests from the U.S. carefully and handle them under the WTO's dispute settlement system."
Imports of U.S. chicken to China have plunged 90% since the imposition of the tariffs, which are largely seen as retaliation for U.S. duties of 35% on Chinese tires.
The two countries are also sparring over steel, electronic payment services, wind energy equipment and industrial raw materials such as zinc and bauxite.
Before the battle over chicken erupted, U.S. poultry farmers enjoyed steady, high-margin business selling unwanted parts to China.
In 2008, about half the $677 million worth of chicken sold to China were chicken feet, sold for up to 80 cents per pound compared with just pennies in the U.S., according to Time magazine.
Although poultry is growing in popularity in China (KFC is the king of fast food in China and expanding rapidly), pork is still the overwhelming meat of choice.
By one estimate, Chinese consume three times as much pork as chicken at nearly 100 pounds per capita each year.
With inflation driving up prices for pork in China, U.S. hog farmers have found themselves in the opposite situation of their poultry-raising countrymen. Imports of U.S. pork have risen fivefold the first seven months of this year, compared with the same period last year, according to the state-owned China Daily.
China and the U.S. now have 60 days to resolve the current dispute on their own. If negotiations fail, the WTO can launch proceedings.
-- David Pierson
Photo: A woman picks out chicken wings and legs at a market in Shanghai, China, on Wednesday. Credit: Qilai Shen / Bloomberg