China delays enforcement of new food import controls

CHINA – China has announced it has delayed enforcing the new controls on food imports following the complaints made by the United States, Europe and other trading partners.

According to a document submitted to the World Trade Organization, Beijing had decided to grant a ‘transitional period of 2 years following comments by other governments, reported the Associated Press.

“According to the complaints and application received, we hereby decide to provide a transitional period of 2 years,” said the document submitted to the WTO by the Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) of China.

China gave no details about the delay, but that it might help avert concerns regarding the shipment of meat, fruit, dairy and other products, which might be disrupted.

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The dispute about the import laws also added tensions with the United States and Europe, which as compared to the China market, have low-priced exports of Chinese steel and aluminium.

The food rules prompted broad opposition, as thousands of farmers are affected and their jobs threatened.

However, the government urged China to follow the global practices and apply it only to high-risk food.

A coalition that involved United States, European Union, Japan, Australia and Argentina also lobbied Beijing to scale back the requirements as stated.

Some officials had suggested Beijing was trying to restrict imports in violation of its market-opening promises.

Foreign suppliers also complained that Beijing already uses safety rules in ways that hamper access for beef and other goods.

AQSIQ, the main Chinese product quality agency, did not respond to questions by fax and email about what would happen during the transitional period.

The inspection rules follow an avalanche of scandals over Chinese suppliers caught selling tainted milk and other shoddy or counterfeit food.

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Beijing has banned imports of soft cheese such as brie and camembert, saying it contained the wrong types of bacteria.

European officials however complained the ban was unfair because the regulators permitted sales of similar cheeses produced in China using the same bacteria.

The dispute added to complaints that Beijing is reducing market access for goods ranging from medical technology to farm-related biotech products

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