WTO ruling could boost US chicken exports

Aug 5, 2013

Last year, the US poultry industry exported a record 8.1 billion pounds of chicken, including chicken feet, which are considered a delicacy in China.
Credit Credit: DanBruell/Flickr

The nation’s poultry industry exported a record 8.1 billion pounds of chicken last year, according to the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. But a recent decision from the World Trade Organization in the latest skirmish between the US and China could drive up that number dramatically. It’s the latest volley in the export battle between the world’s top two economic superpowers.

In 2010, China imposed tariffs on certain imported American chicken products, including chicken feet, which are considered a delicacy in China. China imposed these tariffs because it argued the US was dumping chicken products on the Chinese market, or unfairly selling them at below-market prices. Following the tariffs, US chicken exports to China declined by 80 percent, according to a statement released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

But a World Trade Organization decision released on Friday found that through enacting these tariffs, China violated international trade rules. The ruling is welcome news to American poultry processors.

“It supports our view that these duties on chicken exports to China aren’t justified,” said Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman.

China could appeal the WTO decision. But if China complies with the ruling, it could mean considerably more export business for the US poultry industry in the future.

“Poultry meat is still the cheapest protein that people can eat. As the population’s income rises, they’re going to demand more meat,” said University of Arkansas poultry economist H.L. Goodwin.

Jim Sumner, who is president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, called the WTO ruling “monumental for the industry.”

“This will lift that barrier and allow the US chicken industry to once again access the largest market in the world,” Sumner said.

He added that the WTO decision was also good news for American crop farmers since more chicken exports means more corn and soybeans will be bought for feed.

Last year the Word Trade Organization ruled that China's tariffs on certain steel products imported from the US were being unfairly levied. A decision on a trade spat between the two countries over automobile exports is pending.

Meanwhile, as Peggy Lowe reported for NPR, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is reviewing another deal that could have serious implications on America's meat processors: the proposed acquisition of pork processor Smithfield by the Chinese company Shuanghui International.