WASHINGTON – The United States could sell China $5 billion more in farm goods if Beijing cut trade barriers, according to an official study Tuesday that is likely to stoke trade tensions between the two powers.
"Results suggest that the elimination of Chinese tariffs and non-tariff measures could lead to an additional $3.9 billion to $5.2 billion in US agricultural exports to China," the US International Trade Commission said.
While the United States is already the largest exporter of farm products to China, the trade commission said Beijing blocks the import of major items including beef, pork and wheat.
The federal agency said the main problem was not import duties but non-tariff barriers, such as the blocking of US pork due to supposed fears of swine flu.
"The World Organization for Animal Health has reported that there is no risk of influenza infection from consuming pork," the report noted.
The study is likely to add fuel to simmering dispute between Beijing and Washington over China's bilateral trade surplus, which hit $273 billion last year.
China is already the world's second largest importer of food and farm products, and the US its leading supplier, the report acknowledged.
In 2010 the US shipped $17.8 billion in farm products to China, just over one-fourth of all Chinese farm imports.
Most of what the US sold was soybeans, cotton, processed animal feed and animal hides.
But the US wants to sell more meats, grains like wheat and vegetable oils -- all things for which Chinese demand is steadily rising, the study said.
The report was requested by Democrat Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate finance committee, and committee member Republican Senator Chuck Grassley -- both from key farm states.
"China is our number one market for US agricultural product exports, but China's unjustified trade barriers are blocking some of our goods such as wheat and beef and hurting job growth in the US," Baucus said in a statement following the report's release.
"It is imperative that China drop these barriers and further open its market to American agricultural goods," said Hatch in the same statement.