China trade deal to cut tariffs

By Farmers Weekly staff

OPPORTUNITIES for agri-businesses to sell to the worlds largest market have improved significantly following the recent bi-lateral deal between the EU and China.

The agreement, which paves the way for China to become a full member of the World Trade Organisation next year, includes significant reductions in import tariffs for a range of agricultural goods.

“Overall, the average level of protection will fall from 29% to just 10% by 2004,” said one senior EU commission negotiator.

“Total trade between the EU and China in agricultural goods has been about Euro400 million (250m) a year, and that is now set to grow.”

This will be encouraged by a gradual increase in the import quotas for different products, with wheat up from 7.3m tonnes to 9.6m tonnes a year.

Maize quota will rise from 4.3m tonnes to 7.2m tonnes and rape oil from 600,000t to 1.1m tonnes.

“This has got to be positive news for UK farmers,” said Alan Almond of British Cereal Exports.

“While the Americans had signed their own bilateral (last November) and we had not, the UK was vulnerable.”

With 1.3bn people one-fifth of the worlds population to target, the potential rewards are significant, though no one should underestimate the logistical difficulties of dealing with China, he added.

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