US pork exports to China increase while US faces meat shortage.

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As part of Phase 1 of the US/China trade deal, China agreed to purchase more US goods and one such product has been pork to replace 1/3 of China’s hog population that was decimated in mid-2018 due to African swine fever. Besides pork, China also imported more US beef and poultry products after lifting a prior ban on US poultry. However, one downside of the Phase 1 trade deal has been exasperated by the meat processing plant closing as a result of COVID-19 infections. This has created the issue of too much meat being exported and not enough fresh meat being stocked in US grocery stores.

The U.S. meat shortage and the Phase 1 goals of increasing exports to China seem to be opposing forces, raising the question of whether sales and shipments will or should be limited. Some restrictions would not be surprising given U.S. President Donald Trump’s more combative tone in his recent comments on trade with China.

March 2020 saw the second highest volume of pork to China with the US exporting 95,892 tons, with a combined total of 280,507 tons of pork and pork product exported so far in 2020 (an increase of 300% over the first three months of 2019) with chicken feet being the largest exported US poultry item to China. The combined value of all pork, beef and poultry exports to China for January to March of 2020 totaled $781 million.

If you have any questions about the China trade deal or the 301 duties, contact David Hsu anytime by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com, dh@gjatradelaw.com.

Chinese manufacturers return to China leaving ‘inefficient’ Vietnam.

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According to the South China Morning Post, some Chinese manufacturers that relocated to Vietnam due to the tariffs placed on imports to the US, are moving back to China or exploring manufacturing options in Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The SCMP article quotes a factory manager who said differences in culture (no over time in Vietnam and lower skill labor force) were two main causes of delays in delivery times and poor production numbers. With the tariffs in place, this has increased the demand for land and labor in Vietnam, causing costs to also increase. As foreigners cannot own land in Vietnam, there is also a risk for Chinese manufacturers to partner with a Vietnamese counterpart. Another factor leading to increased manufacturing costs for Chinese companies are the stricter labor and environmental protections, causing many Chinese companies to face fines for violations.

The current trade situation in Vietnam and US tariffs are forcing some manufacturers to look towards Thailand – attractive because of the stable political situation but high labor costs; Bangladesh which is relatively unknown to Chinese manufacturers and Myanmar which has low labor costs, but Myanmar faces sanctions due to their human rights abuses.

While not discussed in the SCMP article, the other big problem for Chinese manufacturers is the issue of how long the US 301 duties will remain in place. Just as spontaneously as the 301 duties were put in place, the 301 duties can also spontaneously end at the discretion of President Trump. I believe this unpredictability is the main question Chinese manufacturers must answer before spending the money and dedicating the time, resources, and manpower needed to move production to a foreign country.

If you have any questions regarding country of origin and how to avoid tariffs by moving production to other countries besides China, contact experienced trade attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at dh@gjatradelaw.com, attorney.dave@yahoo.com.