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Biden Imposes New Tariffs on China to Boost U.S. PPE Manufacturing

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Biden Imposes New Tariffs on China to Boost U.S. PPE Manufacturing

In a decisive move to bolster national security and public safety, the Biden administration has announced new tariffs on Chinese imports, particularly targeting personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies. This initiative aims to stimulate the domestic economy and protect American manufacturers and workers from the influx of low-cost Chinese products.

Read also: Biden Administration Issues Executive Order to Restrict U.S. Investment in Chinese Technology Sectors

Under the direction of President Biden, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will implement increased tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. These tariffs, affecting $18 billion worth of Chinese imports, are intended to shield American businesses from unfair competition and reinforce the nation’s industrial base. Additional funding for US Customs and Border Protection has also been proposed to combat tariff evasion and support domestic manufacturers.

The tariff adjustments are particularly significant for the medical sector:
– Syringes and needles will see tariffs rise from 0% to 50% in 2024.
– Tariffs on PPE, including respirators and face masks, will increase from 0–7.5% to 25% in 2024.
– Rubber medical and surgical gloves will face a tariff hike from 7.5% to 25% by 2026.

The American Medical Manufacturers Association (AMMA) has praised these measures, highlighting the challenges domestic producers face against lower-priced, lower-quality Chinese imports. Eric Axel, Executive Director of AMMA, remarked, “The White House understands that domestic manufacturers face an onslaught of underpriced, subpar Chinese imports. By sidelining high-quality American manufacturers, cheap Chinese imports threaten the safety of our healthcare workers and patients.”

This policy change underscores the Biden administration’s commitment to building a resilient domestic industrial base for critical medical products, a need starkly highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. AMMA has been a staunch advocate for such reforms, recognizing their importance in ensuring public health and national security.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has announced a public comment period, inviting feedback on the proposed tariffs. This step is part of the administration’s ongoing efforts to engage stakeholders and refine policy to best support domestic manufacturing.

Eric Axel concluded, “The White House’s bold proclamation is significant for everyone who favors fortifying domestic PPE and medical product manufacturing. AMMA anticipates the measures announced by President Biden having a transformative impact, invigorating the domestic manufacturing base and safeguarding our nation’s health and security.”

AMMA’s advocacy has been instrumental in this policy shift, marking a new chapter in the protection and support of American medical manufacturers. The journey continues, with ongoing efforts to ensure that domestic producers have a competitive edge in the global market.

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European Chamber President Warns of Escalating Trade Tensions Between China and EU

Tensions between China and Europe are escalating towards a potential trade war, cautioned the head of a European business lobby group on Wednesday. Jens Eskelund, President of the European Chamber in China, described the situation as a “slow-motion train accident,” emphasizing the urgent need for increased dialogue between European and Chinese leaders to avoid further deterioration in relations.

Speaking at a meeting of the chamber’s South China chapter in Guangzhou, Eskelund highlighted the risk of unproductive decoupling if concerns about trade were not addressed promptly. He stressed the necessity for leaders to come together and find solutions to prevent the situation from spiraling into a full-blown trade conflict.

The warning comes in the wake of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s recent visit to China, during which he conveyed European apprehensions about Beijing’s investment policies and advocated for enhanced market access. Meanwhile, the European Union has initiated several investigations into allegations of Chinese manufacturers dumping subsidized goods, such as electric vehicles, in European markets.

The concern over trade tensions extends beyond Europe, with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also raising issues about China’s investments in advanced manufacturing during her recent visit to the country. According to Yellen, China’s dominance in clean energy goods manufacturing creates an unfair playing field.

Despite these challenges, Eskelund expressed optimism about the recent high-level discussions between European and Chinese officials. However, he emphasized the importance of addressing underlying issues to prevent further escalation.

As discussions continue, thousands of foreign buyers are currently attending China’s largest trade show, the biannual Canton Fair, underscoring the country’s pivotal role in global supply chains. Eskelund stressed that China’s vast manufacturing scale necessitates a nuanced approach, recognizing that even small changes in Chinese manufacturing can have significant global ramifications.

The evolving dynamics between China and the EU will undoubtedly shape the future of international trade, underscoring the need for constructive dialogue and collaboration to mitigate potential conflicts and foster mutual prosperity.


Chinese Phenol Imports Soar Over $1.7B

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘China – Phenols – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

In 2020, China boosted its phenol imports by +20% y-o-y to 1.5M tonnes. In value terms, they exceeded $1.7B. South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand constitute the key phenol suppliers to China, with a combined 58%-share of the total imports. Taiwan, the U.S., Thailand and Japan expanded their exports to China, while shipments from South Korea dropped in 2020.

Chinese Phenol Imports

In 2020, approx. 1.5M tonnes of phenols were imported into China; growing by +20% against the year before. In value terms, phenols imports grew by +3.5% y-o-y to $1.7B (IndexBox estimates) in 2020.

South Korea (302K tonnes), Taiwan (302K tonnes) and Thailand (249K tonnes) were the main suppliers of phenols imports to China, together comprising 58% of total imports.

Taiwan (+95% y-o-y), the U.S. (+82% y-o-y), Thailand (+32% y-o-y) and Japan (+10% y-o-y) saw the highest increases in export volume to China in 2020. By contrast, purchases from South Korea reduced by -15% y-o-y.

In value terms, the largest phenols suppliers to China were South Korea ($319M), Taiwan (Chinese) ($294M) and Thailand ($237M), together accounting for 49% of total imports.

In 2020, the average phenols import price amounted to $1,183 per tonne, waning by -13.8% against the previous year. Prices varied noticeably by the country of origin; the country with the highest price was the U.S. ($1,891 per tonne), while the price for Saudi Arabia ($712 per tonne) was amongst the lowest. In 2020, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by Japan, while the prices for the other major suppliers experienced a decline.

Source: IndexBox Platform


U.S. Trade Representative Grants Additional Exclusions to Chinese-Origin Products Subject to Section 301 Tariffs

As we have previously reported, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has announced expanded product exclusions during the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and the initial phase of the trade agreement signed with China in January 2020.

The latest notice of exclusions occurred on May 8, 2020, (85 FR No. 90, 27489 through 27505) and pertains to certain products of Chinese-origin that were subject to additional duties of 10 percent ad valorem, effective on September 24, 2018. In May 2019, the USTR increased the additional duty to 25 percent ad valorem. (84 FR 20459). On June 24, 2019, the USTR published notice establishing a process by which interested parties could request exclusion of particular products classified within an eight-digit HTSUS subheading covered by the September 24, 2018, action. Parties seeking exclusions were required to identify the product subject to the request in terms of the physical characteristics that distinguish it from other products within the eight-digit HTSUS. Additionally, parties had to provide the 10-digit HTSUS subheading most applicable to the particular product requested for exclusion.

In the Annex to the May 8 notice, the exclusions are reflected in two 10-digit HTSUS subheadings and 144 specially prepared product descriptions. The exclusions will apply from September 24, 2018, to August 7, 2020. The USTR may consider extending the exclusion period beyond August 7 and interested persons should remain diligent regarding any notices from USTR requesting comments on whether to grant or deny an extension beyond August 7. In addition, interested parties should remain diligent to Customs and Border Protection notices regarding procedures by which importers may seek refunds of additional duties that were imposed on products that are now subject to product exclusion.

The two specific HTSUS subheadings covered by the May 8 notice are 6902.20.5020 (certain refractory blocks, tiles and similar refractory ceramic constructional goods) and HTSUS 4819.50.4060 (certain packing containers, including record sleeves).

Because of the large number of product exclusions, we have identified below, for example purposes only, a few of the 144 specially prepared product descriptions covering excluded products. As noted by USTR, the exclusions are available for any product that meets the description in the Annex, regardless of whether the importer benefitting from the exclusion filed an exclusion request. As also noted by USTR, the scope of the exclusion is governed by the scope of the product description in the Annex and not by the product descriptions found in any particular request for exclusion.

Product exclusions include certain catalysts (HTSUS 3815.19.00.00); certain vibration control goods (HTSUS 4016.99.55.00); certain backpacks (HTSUS 4202.92.31.20); certain laminated flooring (HTSUS 4412.10.90.00); certain sinks and sink pedestals of natural granite for bathroom and kitchen use (HTSUS 6802.93.00.90); certain rear view mirrors for specific types of vehicles (HTSUS 7009.10.00.00); microscope slides (HTSUS 7017.90.10.00); certain laboratory glassware (HTSUS 7017.90.50.00); certain machine tool castings (8466.93.1560); certain reversing valves (HTSUS 8481.80.90.05); and certain other valves covered by HTSUS 8481.80.90.15.

In addition to the foregoing, the May 8 notice also contains certain amendments reflecting technical corrections to certain relevant notes of the HTSUS.

Also of importance, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has stated that “[t]o request a refund of Section 301 duties paid on previous imports of products granted duty exclusions by the USTR, importers may file a Post Summary Correction (PSC) if within the PSC filing timeframe. If the entry is beyond the PSC filing timeframe, but within 180 days of the liquidation action, importers may protest the liquidation.” See CSMS #41878462


By Brian S. Goldstein, Geoffrey M. Goodale, J. Manly Parks, Patrick C. Gallagher, Ph.D., and Nathan B. Reeder at Duane Morris LLP.

supply chains

Global Trade Talk: Reconfiguring US-China Supply Chains for a Post-Coronavirus World

Global Trade Talk is part of an ongoing series highlighting international business, trade, investment, and site location issues and opportunities. This article focuses on the conversation between Jack Perkowski, JFP Holdings Ltd., and Keith Rabin, KWR International, Inc.


Hello Jack, how are you? It has been a long time since we last talked. Before we begin, can you tell us about your background and current activities?

After graduating from Harvard Business School, I went to work on Wall Street, joining Paine Webber, where I served for 20 years and ended up running the Investment Banking Department. I then decided to do something different for a second career and became interested in Asia. That led to a trip to Hong Kong in 1990 and my moving there in late 1991. I quickly decided within Asia, China was the key driver, and in 1992 made my first trip to the Mainland.

At that time, China’s auto market was small and fragmented. They were manufacturing about 500 thousand vehicles a year, but it was clear the country wanted to develop a large auto industry. However, foreign companies were slow to enter because volumes were too small, so to encourage investment, the government allowed foreigners to have majority ownership in automotive components companies. That is now allowed in most industries in China, but at the time, auto components were the only industry where this was permitted.

I decided to do a roll-up buying majority ownership in a dozen leading auto component companies; putting them under one umbrella; introducing new management and quality systems. To test whether this could work, I visited 100 factories in 40 cities, and concluded it was a viable strategy. I then went back to Wall Street and raised $150 million over the Christmas holidays in 1993 to fund the company. In February 1994, I founded ASIMCO Technologies, an automotive components company focused on China’s emerging auto market. A year later, we raised another $150 million. Over several years, we invested $300 million, which is a lot of money even today. In 1995, though, it was a very large sum.

ASIMCO evolved into a company with 12,000 employees, 17 factories and about a billion dollars in sales. In 2009, ASIMCO was sold to Bain Capital, and I started JFP Holdings, which helps foreign companies to determine whether there is a market in China for their product, service or technology. We also help Chinese companies to expand in overseas markets. We are very hands-on, undertaking research, and then helping our clients to effectively develop and implement their strategies and ongoing business operations.

Almost ten years ago we published an interview with you titled “Profiting from China’s Domestic Economy” concerning China’s rise over several decades to become the world’s second-largest economy. Can you talk about China’s emergence and the role it now plays in the world economy?

China’s growth has been very rapid and it became the world’s second-largest economy about the time we spoke in 2010. Its GDP was about $1.3 trillion in 2001 when it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) – and over the past 20 years, it has grown by more than tenfold to about $14 trillion. In contrast, the US remains the world’s largest economy, at about $22 trillion.

Japan, which had been in second place, is now third, at about $5 trillion – so there is quite a drop from second to third place. Therefore, if you are a company looking for growth, China is very important. It is hard to see how in coming decades a company can maintain or build a global leadership position if it does not have a meaningful presence there. This is reflected in the Fortune 500 list, which now has as many Chinese firms included as from the US.

Per capita income in China has also risen to around $10 thousand a year. That, however, is a bit misleading, because it is an average. It includes an emerging middle and upper class of more than 500 million people, which is about 1.5 times the entire population of the US. These people largely live in major cities and are rapidly increasing their consumption. McKinsey, for example, estimated [1] last year that China delivered more than half of global growth in luxury spending between 2012 and 2018 and is expected to deliver 65% of additional spending into 2025.

This is important. US companies and policymakers need to think of China – not only in terms of manufacturing and sourcing – but also as an important driver of global growth. Therefore, while we need to address the dangers of being over-reliant on China in our supply chain, we also must remain aware of China’s growing global market share, so we can benefit and participate in a fair, constructive and competitive manner.

It is true that China’s economy is increasingly driven by consumer demand. It has also become an important source of R&D and innovation – trends that have risen dramatically since we last talked. Can you talk about this phenomenon, where China stands, and what it means to the US and companies and investors?

Unlike many who located factories in China as a way to reduce the costs of US production, I did not set up ASIMCO as an export company. Our emphasis was on becoming an important part of the local auto market. At the same time, we worked with foreign companies such as Bosch, Caterpillar, and others that sourced components in China, but viewed that as an extra revenue source and a way to ensure our factories could produce to international standards. Lowering labor costs was certainly a factor, but not the central element of our strategy, as I knew costs would rise as China developed. Toyota, for example, is a company that takes a similar view and doesn’t really embrace cost alone as a strategy. It has always wanted its suppliers to make components locally where possible so they can be close to where they are being used. That has been our approach as well.

Bottom line – to benefit from growth in China you need to be there. That is the only way to truly understand and participate. When we began, potential Chinese customers told us they would not take us seriously unless we had a factory there. That is important. The Chinese understand networks and supporting firms follow production. This leads to investment, infrastructure, and development of auxiliary industries and innovation within the supply chain. Academic institutions also respond and take steps to train engineers and others with the critical skills needed. This leads to advanced research and an ability to apply technologies and launch success stories. These make investors comfortable and provide additional benefits – which have value not only in China – but in other markets around the world.

With respect to innovation, few Americans realize how rapidly China is developing in areas including digital technologies, consumer payments, e-commerce, and services. In some areas, it is becoming more advanced than the US and we can learn from them. It is important to keep this in perspective and to balance the need to address trade issues and strengthen and safeguard our supply chain with the need to remain present and involved in this increasingly important market. This is the way we can sustain and advance growth and our global competitiveness.

At the same time, there is a legitimate concern in the US about Chinese technology. I spoke to a group of tech executives and investors in Jackson Hole last year. All they wanted to talk about was China’s development of 5G. While there are security implications if Chinese 5G equipment is installed in the US, you can’t blame China for taking steps to move up the value chain. The US also needs to upgrade our capacity and competitiveness – and our ability to develop the products, services, and supply chains that are needed moving forward.

China’s growth has heightened its political ambitions and in recent years we have seen growing tension in the South China Sea, the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative, control over rare earth metals, rising tariffs and trade disputes, blockage of Huawei and a generally more competitive posture than in the past. This has strained bilateral relations with the US and led to anxiety in Asia and other countries. What does this portend for China and US-China relations moving forward? Considering these developments and backlash over China with coronavirus what changes are we likely to see from China in respect to its trade and bilateral relations with other nations and multilateral institutions?

China joined the WTO in 2001 and there has since been a sharp uptick in every economic measure. Its economy has grown about ten times and the country has clearly benefitted from globalization. Meanwhile, the US and the rest of the world looked the other way as many Chinese policies and business practices during this period have been in violation of international trade practices. We have been like two ships passing in the night. No one, regardless of who was in the White House, wanted to address contentious trade, IPR, technology transfer, and other key issues.

Every year there was a state dinner or two and leaders of each country would shake hands, but important issues were never discussed in a direct, constructive way. President Trump has done this for the first time and the dynamics have changed. Up until the coronavirus, however, most of the world considered the Trade War as “Trump’s Trade War,” but the virus has caused trillions of dollars of damages throughout the world, and now many more countries will be concerned about China’s behavior. This will place more pressure on both Chinese companies and the government – and the country will have to adjust. At the same time, China’s leadership is going back to its more authoritarian roots, and no one likes that —least of all the Chinese people.

While many of China’s relationships with other countries are likely to be more confrontational going forward, I remain optimistic. At the beginning of the year, a phase one US-China trade agreement was signed. When it came out, many said the US did not get what it needed, and others said it was like the “unequal” treaties China entered with western powers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I knew it could not be both and read through it.

Everyone has focused on the provision that says China will buy significant merchandise from the United States over the next two years, but the agreement also deals with IPR, currency manipulation, and other key issues. Most importantly, it includes an arbitration mechanism that provides for quarterly meetings between the US Trade Representative and China’s Deputy Prime Minister where issues of non-compliance are discussed and resolved. To me, this seems like a better approach than trying to take Chinese companies to court.

The real question is will the phase one deal be implemented? In my view, the economic devastation that has resulted from the coronavirus ensures that it will. The US and the Trump Administration want the purchases to go through and China wants tariffs to be lifted. So both sides are under pressure to comply. In a curious way, while our countries are at odds at the governmental level – there are real incentives to work through these important issues – which many in China also would like to see resolved. As a result, I believe the virus will help to build consensus and facilitate the implementation of the January 15th agreement.

The COVID-19 coronavirus is having a dramatic effect on global health as well as the global economy and China. What is the current situation in China? How has the virus affected its economy, and can we trust the data that is emerging? What lessons can we draw from the Chinese experience and what changes might result in respect to US-China and global economic relations and trade moving forward?

I don’t know the exact number of cases and deaths in China, and you can certainly fault their transparency and failure to alert the rest of the world. But, once China recognized the seriousness of the virus, the government imposed draconian measures within its borders that could not be applied here. For example, in the US you cannot rope off and restrict millions of people or undertake the kind of contact tracing and restrictions seen in China.

In this way, China was able to arrest the spread of the virus but nonetheless took a big hit in the first quarter. The second quarter will also not be great. China is, however, implementing stimulus measures – not the roads, bridges, and the infrastructure spending we saw after the 2008 financial crisis – but measures to increase the development of 5G and other technologies that were outlined as key industries in the country’s “Made in China 2025” plan.

As a result, China is likely to have a strong second half. The IMF predicts 1.3% annual growth in 2020. This is certainly down from the double-digit growth enjoyed over recent decades, but it is still positive. The bottom line is, while China is still practicing social distancing, imposing precautions, and incurring hardships, the country is largely back to work. We know that because we deal with businesses and factories all over China, including Hubei province where the virus originated. From what we see, the factories are close to full production. China was the first to take the hit, and it is now the first to recover. Beginning in the third quarter, we think growth will pick up and China is likely to see a V-shaped recovery.

For decades the US embraced China’s rise, and production moved there so companies could reduce costs, raise profitability, and access a new, large emerging market. That began to change with growing concerns over jobs, income inequality, and supply chain security. This sentiment accelerated as President Trump began to impose tariffs and even more now with the coronavirus. The result is more serious talk about bringing jobs and production back to the US. Is this possible and what would it mean for US companies, policymakers, and our economy?

It is definitely possible. A lot of production in the US moved to China in recent decades and the pendulum went way too far in that direction. Many jobs were lost; there was social dislocation, and the security of supply chains for a number of key products has been endangered. At the same time, while the US still possesses research and development advantages, foreign-based supply chains, industrial infrastructure, technical expertise, and networks place us at a disadvantage when it comes to implementation and development.

Much of the offshoring was motivated by the search for lower labor costs – but I think tax and regulatory issues in the US also played a role. So, while we need to address environmental concerns and keep to high standards, we must make the country more attractive if we are to bring companies back. This is particularly true in industries where there needs to be a US presence. That is something that has become even more apparent as trade and political disputes further aggravate this imbalance, and now with the coronavirus, logistics and transportation disruptions have caused inventories to run low.

We are also seeing and helping clients and companies to shift production out of China to Southeast Asia and other emerging markets. This is being done to optimize and diversify supply chains, maintain cost competitiveness, minimize tariff exposure, and to allow access to these growing markets. This is true not only for the US but also for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, European, and other firms. What considerations should companies consider as they reconfigure supply chains and their approach to international markets?

Every company needs to use this time to reexamine its supply chains to determine where they are vulnerable. If they don’t do that – they are simply not doing their job. Governments need to do that as well. If you don’t want the pharmaceutical and other critical industries and materials dependent on China or other nations, it is not enough to criticize foreign practices. You also have to provide real alternatives and incentives to bring production back here. This is true both from an inventory as well as an investor and national security standpoint.

Industries will not, however, come back to where they were in the 1970s and 1980s. The world has changed and we are now far more integrated than we were in the past, both in terms of supply and demand. While the need to address this issue has been clear for some time, US-China trade tensions and the coronavirus have accentuated the need to readjust. Until recently, companies were content to leave production in China as investments and this capacity was already in place – even though many factories were set up at an earlier time when labor costs in China were lower and conditions less developed.  Now, however, as it has become clear how dependent we are on foreign supply, there is more incentive to reevaluate. In many cases, customers, stakeholders, and investors will demand it.

Some of that production will come back to the US, but where cost remains a key determinant, much of it will go to other countries, such as those in Southeast Asia. A concern I have, however, is these countries are so much smaller than China there is a limit to how much production can be shifted there. There is also less opportunity to sell into the local market. Depending on the industry and location, infrastructure and services may also be lacking.

For example, in China, about 25 million vehicles are now manufactured annually, and there has been substantial investment into forging, casting, and other needed functions. These are expensive operations that are hard to replicate. At the same time, Southeast Asia is relatively close, and we are seeing interest from both foreign and Chinese companies to move at least part of their operations there. Because they offer an opportunity to diversify, countries like Vietnam are benefitting from the shift. Other Southeast Asian countries also provide benefits and need to be examined.

A major obstacle in moving jobs and production back to the US is the need to rebuild and upgrade infrastructure as well as our educational, immigration, and healthcare systems to provide the skills and environment needed to allow the transformation that must unfold. What steps need be taken by the US, state, and local governments if we are to rebuild our manufacturing capacity and to both repatriate production that moved offshore and new trade and investment back to the US?

We definitely have the ability to compete. We need to rebuild parts of our economy, but the cost and scope of a large national infrastructure program will be huge and complex, as is education, immigration, and healthcare reform. I believe, however, these goals will be achieved over time.

We also possess many advantages. For example, we are now an energy exporter and able to supply ourselves at low relative costs. Our universities and capital markets also provide strength.  The largest obstacle I see is the need to reduce regulation and institute favorable tax policies.  Addressing the devastating impact of the coronavirus on small businesses, which employ the vast majority of our population, is also now a major, if not our most important, priority. We need to get these people back to work ASAP.

Over the years, we have worked for many economic development agencies as well as private developers to facilitate their efforts to attract trade, investment, and business activity within a range of sectors. Drawing from your experience, what advice can you give to US companies and economic development agencies seeking to attract foreign trade and investment and business partners to enhance their businesses, local economies, and international competitiveness.

There are certain things economic development agencies can do tax-wise to provide incentives and create a welcoming business environment. At the same time, it is especially important to clearly and effectively position themselves to demonstrate competitive advantage and why their cities or states are attractive destinations, while also demonstrating their support for companies who relocate there.

When you travel around China, as we did when we arrived, local authorities roll out the red carpet. They make you feel wanted and have an interest in supporting your development. In contrast, I recently accompanied a Chinese manufacturer to a US Midwestern State as they contemplated setting up a facility there. One of their requests was to meet with local officials. The company we were working with was at first unsure who to meet with but eventually set up a meeting.

The officials were very nice, but it was clear this was unusual and they were not accustomed to meeting foreign companies. They were unsure of what they could contribute and did not seem to understand why they were there. In China, local governments are much more determined and willing to play an active role in wooing investment. In a sense, they try to be partners with businesses that base within their jurisdictions. That seems almost a foreign concept here.

As a result, US companies and economic development agencies should be more active and aggressive – to reduce barriers, provide incentives, and demonstrate an interest in attracting businesses that want to base in their city or state. They also need to demonstrate clear reasons as to the benefits of the location – so decisions are based more on value than on cost alone.

Thank you Jack for your time and attention. Look forward to following up soon.


Keith Rabin serves as President at KWR International, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in international market entry, site location and trade, business, investment and economic development; as well as research and public relations/ public affairs services for a wide range of corporate and government clients.

trade deals

Is It Just a Phase? Redesigning Trade Deals in the Age of Trump.

Comprehensive is Out, “Phased” is In

Within the first few months of the Trump Administration in 2017, the U.S. Trade Representative issued a report identifying intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer as crucial sources of China’s growing technological advantage at the expense of U.S. innovation. Tariffs would be applied until a trade deal to address these practices could be reached.

But expectations had to be reset early in the negotiations – China’s offenses cannot be pinpointed to one set of laws, regulations or practices, and so the complex wiring of China’s national approach cannot be untangled or rewired in one pass, in one agreement, even if China shared that goal. An agreement this ambitious would have to be built in phases.

In presenting the “Phase One” agreement signed between the United States and China on January 15, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the deal represents “a big step forward in writing the rules we need” to address the anti-competitive aspects of China’s state-run economy. And it is a serious document.

Beyond its detailed provisions, the strategic and commercial impact of the deal will take more time to evaluate. What is clear in the meanwhile, is that this administration has departed from the standard free trade agreement template.

Comprehensive agreements are out. Partial or phased agreements are in.

Something Agreed

It’s common in trade negotiations to whittle down differences, leaving the hardest issues to the end. Early wins keep parties at the table, building a set of outcomes in which the parties become invested and more willing to forge compromises around the remaining difficult issues. One way to avoid settling for deals that leave aside the most meaningful – and often hardest – concessions is to stipulate that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

For this administration, however, the art of the deal is – quite simply – closing the elements of the deal available. With China, that may be the best and only way for the United States to achieve a deal. And it may very well represent significant progress. At turns, a larger deal looked as if it would collapse under its own political weight in China. Some things agreed is probably a better outcome than nothing agreed.

A Way Out or a Way Forward?

The deal lays down tracks for more detailed intellectual property rights and newer prohibitions on forced technology transfer. Among other commitments, the deal also breaks ground on previously intractable regulatory barriers to selling more U.S. agricultural and food products in China including dairy, poultry, meat, fish, and grains. But it does not address subsidies provided to China’s state-owned enterprises, a complaint shared by all of China’s major trading partners, Having dodged the issue for now, China may have created an advantage by stringing out its commitments over phases.

The Trump administration brought China to the table with billions in tariffs on imported goods. While compelling, it is not a durable approach. The U.S. macroeconomy is withstanding the self-inflicted pain, but tariffs have real and negative effects on U.S. farmers and business owners who will vote in November. Even a temporary tariff détente is a welcome respite, but uncertainty remains. And while we wait to see if the provisions on intellectual property and technology transfer prove fruitful, what of the lost agricultural sales for U.S. farmers and sunk costs for U.S. businesses?

As part of the deal (a part that gets phased out), China committed to shop for $200 billion in American goods and services over the next two years, including more than $77 billion in manufactured goods, $52 billion in energy products, $32 billion in agricultural goods and $40 billion in services. If fulfilled, the purchases in Phase One would appear to solve the problem of waning U.S. exports to China, but that was a problem of our own making so the administration might only merit partial credit for this part of the deal.

Journey of a Thousand Miles

Of course, the Trump administration’s phased and partial approach to reaching trade deals may simply stem from impatience or a focus on the transactional – comprehensive deals take too long to complete. But the approach may also make sense if these deals are stepping-stones in a bigger, longer game.

In a June 2018 report, the White House offered a taxonomy of 30 different ways the Chinese government acquires American technologies and intellectual property, including through U.S. exports of dual-use technologies, Chinese investments in the United States, and the extraction of competitive information through research arms of universities and companies in the United States.

Ambitious as it is, the administration is not limiting itself to the new Economic and Trade Agreement to solve all the problems it identified. The Department of Justice has initiated intellectual property theft cases, the Department of Commerce is expanding controls over the export of dual-use technologies, and the Treasury Department oversees a process to tighten reviews of proposed inward investments.

A Chinese proverb says that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Concerns the administration will not limit or end its quest with Phase One were evident in the letter from President Xi read aloud at the signing which urged continued engagement to avoid further “discriminatory restrictions” on China’s economic activity in the United States.

Just a Phase?

Beyond engagement with China, the administration has nearly consistently favored partial deals, with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA) the exception. NAFTA needed to be modernized. Our economies have changed too much for the deal to keep pace without some upgrades. Could the modifications have been achieved without replacing the deal? Probably, but perhaps not politically, or it might have been done years sooner. NAFTA’s facelift as USMCA offered a chance for the administration to fashion provisions it intends for broader application, such as those on currency and state-owned enterprises. Though it replaced NAFTA, USMCA changes constitute a partial re-negotiation.

With Japan, the administration set much narrower parameters, hiving off-market access and digital trade as an initial set of deliverables. Last September, President Trump finalized a partial trade deal with Prime Minister Abe that went into effect on January 1. Limited in scope, it encompasses two separate agreements that only cover market access for certain agriculture and industrial goods and digital trade.

The White House characterized the partial deal as a set of “early achievements,” with follow-on negotiations on trade in services, investment and other issues to commerce around April this year. But crucially, the partial deal enabled the United States to avoid addressing its own tariffs on autos and auto parts, which comprise nearly 40 percent of Japan’s merchandise exports to the United States, while securing access to Japan’s market for U.S. agricultural exports.

The United States also restarted talks in 2018 on a partial trade agreement with the European Union that is stalemated over whether to include agriculture.

Walking Alone?

Preferential market access deals are an exception to WTO commitments. WTO members have agreed that free trade agreements outside the WTO should cover “substantially all trade” among the parties and that staging of tariff reductions are part of interim arrangements, not an end state. But with comprehensive negotiations stalled in the WTO itself, members are trying new negotiating approaches such as focusing on single sectors, like information technologies.

Although there was little mention of state-owned enterprises and subsidies in the U.S.-China Phase One deal, something important happened on the margins of that ceremony that received little attention: The trade ministers of Japan, the United States and European Union released a joint statement proposing ways to strengthen the WTO’s provisions on industrial subsides, which they called “insufficient to tackle market and trade distorting subsidization existing in certain jurisdictions,” a reference to China. The statement proposed elements of new core disciplines – a first phase if you will in launching more formal negotiations among WTO members.

The deal signed with China this week envisions reforms to China’s laws, regulations and policies as they apply to any foreign company operating in China, not just the American ones. Perhaps our trading partners see it (only partially) as a go-it-alone strategy and partially as a way to create a corps of provisions that can be migrated to the WTO.

Phase One trade deal - foundation for future US-China trade relations?

Construction Phases: Trump’s Real Estate Mindset

How is the real estate business like trade policy? It isn’t, except in the mind of Donald Trump. Buildings can be demolished or imploded in seconds. A giant hole is dug before its replacement is built. The builder then pours the concrete foundation constructs the frame long before wiring the interior and installing the finishes.

Maybe a phased trade deal represents the opportunity to reset the footing and frame out a solid structure for the future of US-China trade relations – and the finishing touches will come later.

Access the full agreement.



Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.

Pencils: Still Teaching Us Lessons About Trade

Pining for Simpler Times

Pencils remind us of simpler times, when writing was an adventure and erasing life’s mistakes was easy.

In the classic 1958 essay I, Pencil, Leonard Read opened a window for readers into the surprisingly complex global supply chain of something everyone holds in their hand, the pencil. Read helps us realize that countless individuals are involved in logging, mining, processing, transporting, and manufacturing the California cedar, Sri Lankan graphite, Mississippi clay, and foreign and domestic copper, zinc, wax, and coatings combined to produce an elegantly simple pencil.

To Read, a pencil is a miracle. No single individual could make one and no “master mind” directs its production. Pencils are made nonetheless because of the “invisible hand” of free markets. In the decades since Read’s essay, commentators have observed that pencil making is not entirely the result of free-market activity. Governments, too, support pencil production by managing forests, educating workers, and building ports and roads.

The question of where and how pencils are made has resurfaced in the current debate over American trade policy. In a recent campaign video by Senator Elizabeth Warren, she criticizes “giant ‘American’ companies” and their U.S. and foreign shareholders for “hollowing out” American communities. Warren offers as a proof point that “the maker of the famous no. 2 pencil” now largely imports pencils made in China and Mexico.

With pencils in the spotlight, we revisit what can they teach us about the complexity and nuances of modern American trade.

Is Trade Erasing U.S. Manufacturing?

American pencil production has plummeted over the last 25 years. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), the number of U.S. pencil manufacturers fell from 11 in 1993 to four in 2016.

Dixon Ticonderoga — maker of the iconic green-banded yellow pencil — shuttered plants in Ohio and Missouri in the early 2000s, shedding hundreds of jobs. With the end of production by Sanford L.P. in 2014, U.S. production and capacity plunged further — by more than half. During this period, the domestic share of America’s $557 million pencil market declined markedly, while imports from China, Brazil, Mexico, and elsewhere more than quadrupled, growing from 6.7 million gross in 1993 to 28.8 million gross in 2016. (A gross is 144 pencils.)

Trade Vistas- Number of US pencil manufacturers

What’s at the Core?

There has been a significant “hollowing out” of American pencil manufacturing. But is the pencil industry representative of U.S. manufacturing and trade generally? The data suggest it’s not.

America has lost five million manufacturing jobs since the mid-1980s. During this period, however, U.S. manufacturing output has doubled. America is making more stuff with fewer workers largely because U.S. factories are more efficient. Studies show that the loss of American manufacturing jobs is due primarily to improved technology, not trade. Economists at Ball State estimate that, overall, 87 percent of U.S. manufacturing job losses between 2000 and 2010 were due to automation, while 13 percent resulted from trade. (Automation was by far the predominant cause of job loss for 15 of the 18 manufacturing sectors studied.)

There are, however, certain largely lower-tech U.S. manufacturing sectors where trade has had a much greater impact. Foremost among these are furniture and apparel (Senator Warren’s video also highlights foreign production of Levi’s jeans) where economists estimate that trade accounted for some 40 percent of job losses. Pencil manufacturing is an example of a “mature” industry where there’s little room for manufacturing innovation but space for makers of high quality products for niche markets. Indeed, for American specialty manufacturers like New Jersey-based General Pencil, the process and equipment used to make pencils has hardly changed from over a century ago.

Can Protection Sharpen U.S. Production?

Policymakers often try to revive trade-impacted low-tech sectors through trade protection. The pencil industry’s experience highlights the difficulties of this approach.

In 1994, the United States imposed antidumping duties on pencils from China, after finding that sales of Chinese imports at “less than fair value” were injuring U.S. manufacturers. Imports of pencils from China fell sharply in 1995. By 1998, however, the volume of “subject imports” from China (six million gross) actually exceeded the volume during the original investigation.

The antidumping duty order was continued in 2000, 2005, 2011, and 2016 after the USITC found that revoking the order would cause further injury to U.S. pencil makers. However, despite duties as high as 114.90 percent imposed on “unfair” imports, subject imports continued to grow to 9.2 million gross in 2004 and 10.5 million gross in 2009, and were 8.5 million gross in 2016.

The pencil industry isn’t the only manufacturing sector where efforts at protection have seemingly failed. Over 97 percent of clothing and footwear sold in America is made overseas, despite the fact that America has, for decades, imposed tariffs on these imports that often exceed 30 percent.

Back to School – With Trade, the Consumer Wins

Is “Big Pencil” to blame for the loss in U.S. manufacturing jobs? Or, are big retailers who seek lower-cost pencils from overseas? While Dixon Ticonderoga isn’t a large company, it’s now owned by a larger Italian firm and imports most of its pencils. And, according to the USITC, there has been increasing consolidation among U.S. wholesale purchasers of pencils. Office Depot and Office Max have merged and big box stores like Target and Walmart are buying larger volumes and seeking low prices.

These retailers are responding to demand for lower-cost imported pencils — in no small part from America’s parents.

Although there has been a resurgence in demand for high-quality, specialty pencils like the Palomino Blackwing and coloring pencils for stressed-out Boomers, most “commodity” pencils are sold during the “back to school” season. In recent years, schools are increasingly requiring parents to buy student supplies like pencils.

School Supplies Costs to US Parents

In 2018, American parents paid an estimated $941 for school supplies and fees for each middle school child. These costs can be a significant burden, especially for low-income parents. Imported pencils — and binders and backpacks — can help moderate these costs. Studies show that middle-income, and especially lower-income Americans, gain significant buying power, stretching their dollars further, from imports.

Pop Quiz

The pencil has a storied history. According to, Ancient Roman scribes introduced the use of thin metal rods as a stylus. In the 1800s, the best graphite was sourced from China. Although the first mass-produced pencils were unpainted to show off high-quality wood casings, pencil makers later painted them yellow, a regal color in China, to demonstrate the quality of the graphite within.

The simple pencil continues to both transcribe and itself illustrate complex stories, including the growth and effects of global trade. It can also evoke fond memories like the time mine saved me on a pop history quiz in the 5th grade:

Question 3: Name three Colonial forts.

My answer: Fort Pitt, Fort William Henry, and . . . uh . . .oh yeah! Fort (Dixon) Ticonderoga!


Ed Gerwin

Ed Gerwin is a lawyer, trade consultant, and President of Trade Guru LLC.

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.


Amid US-China Trade Battle, Here is how America can Remain the World’s Strongest Economy

The Communist Party of China has laid plans for a century of unlimited Chinese power and, with it, the end of the American era. However, we still can — and must — bet big on the future of American economic power. The best antidote to China’s ambitions is to ensure America’s continued economic and technological preeminence.

Far too many strategists, investors, and policymakers accept China’s economic preeminence as an inevitable outcome, given the country’s enormous population and potential for growth.

As the business community looks toward a “partial trade deal” to unwind tariffs and reduce trade hostility between the world’s two largest economies, we must understand that non-negotiable problems in U.S.-China relations will accelerate if China closes the gap with the United States in terms of economic and technological power. With the right strategic mindset and a focus on domestic productivity, America can not only win the economic and technological contest but also turn the tide in the U.S.-China competition for global power.

China’s bid for global power is built on its economic ascendency, which is based on engagement with the United States and our allies. Chinese companies are capturing global markets and climbing the ranks of the Fortune Global 500 by taking advantage of stolen or coerced foreign intellectual property and state-orchestrated market distortions. The Communist Party is converting China’s technological power into a dystopian surveillance state and a military that is focusing its capabilities on the United States and our partners.

Chairman Xi Jinping calls regularly for Chinese forces to “prepare to fight and win wars,” while converting civilian industrial technology into military power through “civil-military fusion.” Meanwhile, China’s current account surplus is employed for global influence, buying “strategic partners” with intercontinental projects like the “Belt and Road Initiative” and state-backed acquisitions of foreign firms.

U.S.-China competition is likely to be the hardest geopolitical contest in generations — but it is a contest that the United States can win if we focus on the right objectives.

The People’s Republic of China is a challenge to America’s values and concept of world order. U.S.-China competition is likely to be the hardest geopolitical contest in generations — but it is a contest that the United States can win if we focus on the right objectives. So, where do we go from here?

Focus on GDP

The first step must be a focus on accelerating U.S. productivity growth. U.S. productivity growth need only increase from 1.3 percent a year to 2.5 percent for U.S. GDP to remain ahead of China’s for the entirety of the 2020s, the decade in which many expect China’s economy to surpass America’s.

By 2030, economic leadership will be easier to maintain as China’s demographic problems set in. Such a productivity increase is realistic, given that productivity growth from 1995 to 2008 was higher than 2.5 percent.

Protect America’s edge

The second step is to preserve our edge in advanced and emerging technologies. America must remain ahead of Communist China, not only in hard sciences, but also in the actual production of advanced goods and services.

If America competes against China only through soybean and oil production, we will fail to counter China in advanced industries such as robotics, semiconductors, aerospace and biopharmaceuticals. China is gaining in these and other technologies and industries and could eventually have a decisive advantage over the United States.

As Alexander Hamilton warned 200 years ago, America can’t be great if it is a “hewer of wood and drawer of water.” We must out-invent and outproduce China in advanced technology and industrial goods.

Maintaining U.S. advantage will require collaboration between government and corporations towards national goals in science, engineering and industry. This approach has long served our nation in times of international struggle and led to lasting commercial and national security breakthroughs.

New and Big

In order to attain these goals, Washington must think new and big. New in the sense of a bipartisan consensus that productivity growth and technological competitiveness must be national priorities.

Big in the sense of big and bold proposals. Here are three: First, implement a robust research, development and investment tax credit that will stimulate innovation and investment on American soil. Second, establish a series of well-funded “moonshot” goals to ensure American leadership in emerging industries such as advanced robotics and quantum computing. Third, develop a national productivity strategy that will take the best ideas of government and industry and focus on building the next $10 trillion in annual U.S. GDP by 2030.

Half a century ago, under the leadership of President John F. Kennedy, America faced a Communist superpower that believed that it would “bury” the United States, much as Chinese Communist leaders today believe that the 21st century belongs to China. Kennedy reminded us then that America would “bear any burden” and “meet any hardship” to prevail in that consequential time.

In the end, it was the power of the American economy, the power of American technology, and the power of American industry that brought victory over our ambitious foe. We must unleash these forces once again, wrestle them into national service, and build on toward the greater good — an American era that can and must prevail.


Dr. Jonathan D.T. Ward is the author of “China’s Vision of Victory” and founder of Atlas Organization, a strategy consultancy on US-China global competition. Follow him on Twitter @jonathandtward

Dr. Robert D. Atkinson is the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and the author of “Big is Beautiful: Debunking the Mythology of Small Business.” Follow him on Twitter @robatkinsonITIF..

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission. 


Grapefruit Market in Asia – Japan Halved Grapefruit Imports Over the Last Decade

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘Asia – Grapefruits (Inc. Pomelos) – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

The revenue of the grapefruit market in Asia amounted to $6.4B in 2018, picking up by 6.1% against the previous year. This figure reflects the total revenues of producers and importers (excluding logistics costs, retail marketing costs, and retailers’ margins, which will be included in the final consumer price). In general, grapefruit consumption continues to indicate strong growth. The pace of growth appeared the most rapid in 2015 when the market value increased by 18% y-o-y. Over the period under review, the grapefruit market reached its maximum level in 2018 and is expected to retain its growth in the near future.

Consumption By Country in Asia

China (4.8M tonnes) remains the largest grapefruit consuming country in Asia, comprising approx. 72% of total consumption. Moreover, grapefruit consumption in China exceeded the figures recorded by the region’s second-largest consumer, Viet Nam (611K tonnes), eightfold. India (377K tonnes) ranked third in terms of total consumption with a 5.6% share.

In China, grapefruit consumption increased at an average annual rate of +7.5% over the period from 2007-2018. In the other countries, the average annual rates were as follows: Viet Nam (+5.5% per year) and India (+7.1% per year).

In value terms, China ($4.5B) led the market, alone. The second position in the ranking was occupied by Viet Nam ($707M). It was followed by Thailand.

The countries with the highest levels of grapefruit per capita consumption in 2018 were Viet Nam (6,331 kg per 1000 persons), China (3,340 kg per 1000 persons) and Thailand (3,267 kg per 1000 persons).

From 2007 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of grapefruit per capita consumption, amongst the main consuming countries, was attained by China, while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Market Forecast 2019-2025 in Asia

Driven by increasing demand for grapefruit in Asia, the market is expected to continue an upward consumption trend over the next seven years. Market performance is forecast to decelerate, expanding with an anticipated CAGR of +3.7% for the seven-year period from 2018 to 2025, which is projected to bring the market volume to 8.7M tonnes by the end of 2025.

Production in Asia

The grapefruit production stood at 7M tonnes in 2018, growing by 6.4% against the previous year. The total output indicated a remarkable increase from 2007 to 2018: its volume increased at an average annual rate of +5.6% over the last eleven-year period. The trend pattern, however, indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Based on 2018 figures, grapefruit production increased by +81.9% against 2007 indices. The pace of growth appeared the most rapid in 2015 when production volume increased by 12% y-o-y. Over the period under review, grapefruit production reached its maximum volume in 2018 and is expected to retain its growth in the immediate term. The general positive trend in terms of grapefruit output was largely conditioned by a resilient increase of the harvested area and temperate growth in yield figures.

In value terms, grapefruit production stood at $6.9B in 2018 estimated in export prices. Overall, grapefruit production continues to indicate a strong increase. The growth pace was the most rapid in 2015 when production volume increased by 18% against the previous year. The level of grapefruit production peaked in 2018 and is expected to retain its growth in the immediate term.

Production By Country in Asia

The country with the largest volume of grapefruit production was China (5M tonnes), accounting for 71% of total production. Moreover, grapefruit production in China exceeded the figures recorded by the region’s second-largest producer, Viet Nam (598K tonnes), eightfold. The third position in this ranking was occupied by India (377K tonnes), with a 5.4% share.

From 2007 to 2018, the average annual rate of growth in terms of volume in China amounted to +7.5%. In the other countries, the average annual rates were as follows: Viet Nam (+5.3% per year) and India (+7.1% per year).

Harvested Area in Asia

In 2018, the total area harvested in terms of grapefruits production in Asia stood at 220K ha, going up by 3.7% against the previous year. The harvested area increased at an average annual rate of +2.8% from 2007 to 2018; however, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded in certain years. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2015 with an increase of 18% year-to-year. The level of grapefruit harvested area peaked at 226K ha in 2016; however, from 2017 to 2018, harvested area stood at a somewhat lower figure.

Yield in Asia

The average grapefruit yield amounted to 32 tonne per ha in 2018, jumping by 2.6% against the previous year. The yield figure increased at an average annual rate of +2.7% over the period from 2007 to 2018; the trend pattern remained consistent, with somewhat noticeable fluctuations in certain years. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2017 when yield increased by 9.6% against the previous year. The level of grapefruit yield peaked in 2018 and is expected to retain its growth in the immediate term.

Exports in Asia

In 2018, the amount of grapefruits exported in Asia amounted to 525K tonnes, jumping by 21% against the previous year. The total export volume increased at an average annual rate of +5.6% over the period from 2007 to 2018; however, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded in certain years. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2008 when exports increased by 23% year-to-year. Over the period under review, grapefruit exports reached their maximum in 2018 and are likely to see steady growth in the near future.

In value terms, grapefruit exports totaled $449M (IndexBox estimates) in 2018. The total exports indicated a strong expansion from 2007 to 2018: its value increased at an average annual rate of +5.6% over the last eleven-year period. The trend pattern, however, indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Based on 2018 figures, grapefruit exports increased by +15.7% against 2014 indices. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2008 with an increase of 21% y-o-y. Over the period under review, grapefruit exports reached their maximum in 2018 and are likely to continue its growth in the immediate term.

Exports by Country

In 2018, China (211K tonnes) and Turkey (182K tonnes) were the major exporters of grapefruits in Asia, together recording near 75% of total exports. It was distantly followed by Israel (88K tonnes), achieving a 17% share of total exports. China, Hong Kong SAR (16K tonnes) and Cyprus (8.3K tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

From 2007 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of exports, amongst the main exporting countries, was attained by China, Hong Kong SAR, while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest grapefruit markets in Asia were China ($200M), Turkey ($119M) and Israel ($87M), with a combined 91% share of total exports. These countries were followed by China, Hong Kong SAR and Cyprus, which together accounted for a further 4%.

Among the main exporting countries, China, Hong Kong SAR recorded the highest rates of growth with regard to exports, over the last eleven years, while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Export Prices by Country

The grapefruit export price in Asia stood at $855 per tonne in 2018, waning by -3.7% against the previous year. Over the last eleven years, it increased at an average annual rate of +1.2%. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2017 when the export price increased by 10% y-o-y. In that year, the export prices for grapefruits attained their peak level of $888 per tonne, and then declined slightly in the following year.

Prices varied noticeably by the country of origin; the country with the highest price was Israel ($995 per tonne), while Cyprus ($585 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2007 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by China, Hong Kong SAR, while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Imports in Asia

In 2018, the amount of grapefruits imported in Asia totaled 272K tonnes, surging by 24% against the previous year. In general, grapefruit imports, however, continue to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2018 when imports increased by 24% y-o-y. Over the period under review, grapefruit imports reached their maximum at 280K tonnes in 2010; however, from 2011 to 2018, imports failed to regain their momentum.

In value terms, grapefruit imports amounted to $232M (IndexBox estimates) in 2018. Over the period under review, grapefruit imports, however, continue to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2014 when imports increased by 15% y-o-y. The level of imports peaked at $236M in 2007; however, from 2008 to 2018, imports remained at a lower figure.

Imports by Country

In 2018, Japan (85K tonnes), distantly followed by China (45K tonnes), Saudi Arabia (34K tonnes), South Korea (23K tonnes), China, Hong Kong SAR (23K tonnes) and Viet Nam (15K tonnes) were the largest importers of grapefruits, together comprising 83% of total imports. Iraq (11K tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

From 2007 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of imports, amongst the main importing countries, was attained by Viet Nam (+115.4% per year), while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, Japan ($64M), China ($60M) and South Korea ($32M) were the countries with the highest levels of imports in 2018, with a combined 67% share of total imports. China, Hong Kong SAR, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam and Iraq lagged somewhat behind, together accounting for a further 21%.

Viet Nam (+99.6% per year) experienced the highest rates of growth with regard to imports, in terms of the main importing countries over the last eleven-year period, while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Import Prices by Country

The grapefruit import price in Asia stood at $853 per tonne in 2018, dropping by -8.6% against the previous year. Overall, the grapefruit import price, however, continues to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2017 when the import price increased by 12% against the previous year. In that year, the import prices for grapefruits reached their peak level of $933 per tonne, and then declined slightly in the following year.

Prices varied noticeably by the country of destination; the country with the highest price was South Korea ($1,420 per tonne), while Iraq ($323 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2007 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by China, while the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform


What Every Business Should Know About Selling in China

Not only is China the most populous country on earth (1.3 billion people), it also has the second-biggest economy in the world by Nominal GDP (14.242 trillion dollars).

As the country has pursued ever more progressive policies to trade (and despite the current trade war between China and the United States) more and more opportunities to sell in the country have arisen to businesses across sectors. If you see China as a potential growth market, here are some of the most important considerations when selling in China.

Seek advice

When looking to enter a foreign market, it is always advisable to seek sage advice, and even look to local businesses who you can partner with. Although you may not wish to go down the partnership route, it is definitely advisable to seek the counsel of businesses who are already operating within the sphere, or groups such as the Global Innovation Forum who often provide free advice regarding penetrating new markets. 

This is a smart strategy because selling in China will be totally unlike selling domestically, or in European markets, for example. Any insights that you can garner will be potentially critical to the success of your sales strategy and approach in China, because as is abundantly clear, you will be operating within a totally different market, both literally and culturally.

“The cultural considerations when accessing new markets should never be overlooked. From the way that you brand and market your products to the way that you negotiate with local businesses and retailers, everything you do will be influenced by different rules: rules to which you are unfamiliar. Get the help you need to pass through this difficult phase,” advises Grant Tarrant, a business writer at and

Understand Chinese governmental practices and rules

Although the Chinese Government has grown increasingly receptive to foreign businesses working and partnering in China, rules will still be a little conservative in comparison to the Western approach. Make sure you totally familiarize yourself with what you are expected to adhere too, especially when visiting the country and seeking to operate a sales operation from within China.

For example, you will need to understand the levels of bureaucracy that exist to set up a business entity that operates within China. For example, you may need to set up as a Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (WFOE) to operate, and this can be a costly and timely exercise that may delay you implementing your sales strategy. Forming a business plan which pays close attention to all the requirements (and timeframes) of the Chinese state is essential.

Understand your customer

This piece of advice holds for whoever you are selling too, but obviously your Chinese customer base will be different from your US customer base and will have different expectations. For example, haggling is a standard cultural procedure, and Chinese customers demand to know a product impeccably before they buy, so ensure that your eCommerce operation includes high numbers of images and product reviews: this will be expected.

“If you study Chinese eCommerce sites such as Taobao you will see that it facilitates the Chinese custom of haggling down prices. In the West we are totally unfamiliar with this practice as we are satisfied that the price is the price, Be prepared to change your approach accordingly,” says Rachel Walliston, a marketer at and

Provide impeccable customer support

Chinese customers have come to expect an extremely high level of customer support from their retailers and will demand this from any new business operating within their sphere. Knowing this, make sure you ramp up support efforts, and that, of course, raises questions regarding how you will do this in a new language and culture. Seeking advice from established entities is again the recommended route, and establishing support centers in the country is also best practice. 

Understand the marketing and communication channels

If you go in with a Facebook-based marketing strategy, be prepared to be disappointed. In China the social media platforms are different, for example, WeChat is one of China’s most popular platforms, but barely exists outside of the country. It has been dubbed a ‘super-app’ because it can be used for a multitude of actions, so utilizing such platforms is an absolute must if you wish to successfully penetrate the Chinese market. 


Ashley Halsey is a writer, editor and international business expert who can be found at both and She has been involved in many projects in Asia, and enjoys traveling, reading and cultural exchanges.