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story.lead_photo.caption A combine harvests soybeans near Princeton, Ill., in September. China, which has begun an anti-dumping investigation into U.S. sorghum imports, is also considering trade restrictions on imports of U.S. soybeans.

China is studying the potential impact of trade measures imposed on soybeans imported from the U.S., valued last year at $13.9 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

China's Ministry of Commerce has been studying the possibility of taking measures since January, including anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probes, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information hasn't been made public. The ministry held a meeting on Tuesday with some Chinese companies to get feedback, and no conclusions were reached, they said.

The U.S. Soybean Export Council wasn't invited to the meeting convened by the ministry with representatives from China's importing and processing industries, Paul Burke, the Beijing-based North Asia regional director for the U.S. group, said in an email.

The ministry "has been researching the implications on China and the Chinese crushing industry in the event U.S. soybeans have restricted market access," Burke said. "No decisions were made or announced as to whether China will in fact restrict access."

Commodities are particularly exposed to escalating trade tensions between the world's biggest economies. China started an anti-subsidy and anti-dumping investigation into U.S. grain sorghum on Sunday, less than two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines.

The ministry didn't immediately comment. An official who answered a telephone call to the China Soybean Industry Association declined to comment. A final decision to take any steps would be made by senior Chinese leadership.

China's soybean imports have climbed to a record as expansion in large-scale livestock farming and a shortage of protein-rich feed grains boost soy-meal consumption. While the U.S. counts China as its biggest soybean market, the Asian country last year bought more of the oilseed from Brazil.

Farmers and ranchers have long feared they might become the first victims of any trade war between China and the United States. Just last week, the American Chamber of Commerce in China warned that agricultural and aircraft imports would be most at risk of retaliation from Chinese officials, should Trump adopt tariffs.

Agriculture is in a special position, said Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, because the United States is such a large supplier to China. And the country has a long history of hitting back against trade partners who seek to impose tariffs on it.

When President Barack Obama slapped tariffs on Chinese tires in 2009, Beijing responded by placing its own tariff on chicken feet. The administration eventually took the matter to the World Trade Organization, which ruled in favor of the United States -- but not before American poultry exports to China collapsed 90 percent.

Information for this article was contributed by Miao Han and Jeff Wilson of Bloomberg News and by staff members of The Washington Post.

Business on 02/08/2018

Print Headline: China reviewing U.S. soybeans

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