Got rice? That's what China, the world's largest consumer of rice, is now asking the U.S.
For the first time ever, Asia's economic giant will allow imports of American rice, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday. That comes as a welcome signal after annual trade talks between the two nations broke down this week without a concrete outcome. And although it is just a small part of an expansive trade relationship, the rice deal signals that, at least for now, the threat of a trade war is tabled as each side is still engaging the other.
China's rice market has technically been open since it joined the World Trade Organization IN 2001. But the U.S. and China have spent a decade working on setting standards for rice producers and facilities interested in exporting the grain. That effectively shut U.S. rice out of China, which imported 5 million tons of the grain last year.
The rice agreement isn't the first inroad President Donald Trump has made with China, but its timing after the lackluster trade meeting — which occurred after a 100-day period for the two nations to tackle the trade imbalance — is key.
Looking ahead, there could be more specific product agreements — like the rice deal — from the two countries because the Trump administration wants "something measurable … that they can brag about," said trade expert William Reinsch of the Stimson Center. He pointed to an early success from the White House in putting the finishing touches on lengthy negotiations to allow American beef exports to China, ending a 14-year ban.
"Wins thus far on beef and other areas are steps in the right direction and positively benefit U.S. companies operating in those industries," said Jacob Parker, vice president at the U.S.-China Business Council, who urged that momentum on trade deals could be leveraged to address other issues, such as getting China to open up its capital markets and to loosen investment restrictions for foreign firms.