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 Richmans' Trade and Taxes Blog

China's multiple barriers to American products
Howard Richman, 4/1/2010

The latest statistics released on March 18 by the BEA show that for every $1 that the United States bought from China in 2009, the Chinese government only let its people buy 28¢ of American products. Although the Chinese economy was growing by 8.7%, the Chinese government managed to shrink Chinese imports of American goods and services.

The 2010 National Trade Estimate (NTE) released on March 31 by the Office of the United States Trade Representative explains how the Chinese government kept out American products. Although the report ignored China's currency manipulations, which raise the cost of all American goods and services in China by somewhere between 25-40%, it still found plenty to talk about. Currency exchange rate manipulation is only one of the many ways that the Chinese government keeps out American products. The report focused upon the Chinese government's expert use of tariff and non-tariff barriers.


The Chinese government imposes high tariffs upon many American products. The report states:

China still maintains high duties on some products that compete with sensitive domestic industries. For example, the tariff on large motorcycles is 30 percent. Likewise, most video, digital video, and audio recorders and players still face duties of approximately 30 percent. Raisins face duties of 35 percent. (p. 60)

Selective Use of VAT

According to the report, China makes selective use of its Value-Added Tax to keep out American phosphate fertilizer:

In 2001, China began exempting all phosphate fertilizers except diammonium phosphate (DAP) from the VAT. DAP, a product that the United States exports to China, competes with other phosphate fertilizers produced in China, particularly monoammonium phosphate. (p. 60)

Procurement Directives

The report points out that China makes use of procurement directives to keep out American telecommunication equipment:

There have been continuing reports of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and China Telecom adopting policies to discourage the use of imported components or equipment. For example, MIIT has reportedly still not rescinded an internal circular issued in 1998 instructing telecommunications companies to buy components and equipment from domestic sources. (p. 60)

QIPs to Keep Out Agricultural Goods

The report points out that the Chinese government uses Quarantine Inspection Permits (QIPs) to keep out American agricultural products, causing costly delays while they sit on the docks:

China’s inspection and quarantine agency, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), and MOFCOM have imposed inspection-related requirements that have led to restrictions on imports of many U.S. agricultural goods....

Because of the commercial necessity to contract for commodity shipments when prices are low, combined with the inherent delays in having QIPs issued, many cargos of products such as soybeans, meat, and poultry arrive in Chinese ports without QIPs, creating delays in discharge and resulting in demurrage bills for Chinese purchasers. In addition, traders report that shipments often are closely scrutinized and are at risk for disapproval if they are considered too large in quantity.(pp. 63-64)

Restricting Market Access to Services.

America has a wide variety of financial and insurance services that American companies could market in China, but the Chinese government simply restricts market access. The report states:

China imposes restrictions in a number of services sectors that prevent or discourage foreign suppliers from gaining or further expanding market access. (p.70)

Keeping out Genuine Materials while they are Pirated

American DVD movies and PC games are quite popular in China. However, American companies rarely get any sales. The report states:

An exacerbating factor contributing to China’s poor IPR protection has been China’s maintenance of restrictions on the right to import and distribute legitimate copyright-intensive products, such as theatrical films, DVDs, music, books, newspapers, and journals. These restrictions impose burdens on legitimate, IPR-protected goods and delay their introduction into the market. These burdens and delays faced by legitimate products create advantages for infringing products and help to ensure that those infringing products continue to dominate markets within China. (p. 71)

Demanding American R&D and Patents

The report briefly mentions China's most recent escalation, its November requirement that American corporations move their R&D and patents to China:

In order to qualify as “indigenous” innovation under the accreditation system, and therefore be entitled to procurement preferences, a product’s intellectual property must originally be registered in China. (p. 69)

In short, the United States government is letting the Chinese government practice mercantilism, the strategy of maximizing exports and minimizing imports. We freely receive Chinese imports without requiring reciprocity.

It's time to impose a tariff on Chinese goods proportional to our trade deficit with China. Such a tariff, permitted by a special WTO rule for trade-deficit countries, would finally force the Chinese government be take down its many, many barriers to American goods and services.

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Comment by Zhuubaajie, 4/3/2010:

All countries have regulations on imports.  China's import regulations are a lot more lenient than, say for example, those of Japan or S. Korea.  Today but for the Chinese auto market, all of the American Big 3 would already be bankrupt and then some.  They sell many more cars (big and small) in China than in Japan or Korea.  In fact the sale of U.S. made cars in Korea is laughable. 


It was wise for China to block the fraudulent American "financial services" trade to the extent she did - or China would have fallen victim like so very many unsuspecting governments around the world, and could not have served as the economic engine for pulling the world out of this American created global recession.


You are actually accusing China of protectionism in agriculture!!!  American agricultural subsidies annually exceed that of the rest of the world combined. 'Nuff said.  You are speaking the words of the blind with eyes wide open.


Copyright is a 2 way street.  Google, the quintessential American hegemonistic enterprise, openly flouts the copyright laws and misapproprates the works of tens of thousands of Chinese authors.  I don't see the American government doing anything.  


Requiring the sharing of R&D, and using market access to gain knowhow, is not only permitted under the WTO - it is in fact encouraged by both the World Bank and the IMF as legit methods for developing nations (of which China is one) to move up the ladder.  China has much to offer, as R&D costs using the smart and dedicated Chinese workers, only 1/5th the price in the West.


Protectionism hurts only Americans, as the Richmans' tariffs means jacking up import prices.  I don't know why it is that the Jewish economists are so gungho about punishing the poorest of Americans, who bear the brunt of any rise in consumer goods prices.  Could be that you folks have never had a day of financial struggles, trying to live from hand to mouth. 

Response to this comment by Howard Richman, 4/4/2010:
Actually, if China and India weren't excluding U.S. produced automobiles from their market with a 25% tariff, on top of their currency manipulations, Detrot would be doing much better at the moment.

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  • [An] extensive argument for balanced trade, and a program to achieve balanced trade is presented in Trading Away Our Future, by Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman. “A minimum standard for ensuring that trade does benefit all is that trade should be relatively in balance.” [Balanced Trade entry]

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