China blocks US request for WTO arbitration in grain dispute
China on Thursday blocked a US request for the World Trade Organization to create an expert panel to resolve a dispute over Chinese restrictions on imports of American grain.
Washington first brought the case to the world trade body last December, complaining that China has violated its commitments by limiting imports of American rice, wheat and corn.
After consultations between the parties failed to make progress, the United States on Thursday asked the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body to set up an arbitration panel to resolve the matter.
The United States maintains that China, which became a WTO member in 2001, has not respected its commitment to facilitate market access to foreign competition.
Washington takes issue with China’s so-called tariff rate quota system for rice, wheat and corn, which it has said are so “opaque and unpredictable” that it dramatically limits imports.
In 2015, the tariffs on rice stood as high as 92 percent, the US Trade Representative said in December.
The Agriculture Department estimated China would have imported as much as $3.5 billion of additional US crops that year alone if the so-called tariff-rate quotas were properly used.
China, which insists its agriculture measures are in line with international trade rules, meanwhile took advantage of a WTO regulations allowing parties in a dispute to block a first request for the creation of an expert panel.
If Washington makes a second request however, the panel could only be blocked if all members in attendance agree to do so.