July 11, 2017 1:01PM

A Little Bit of Trade Liberalization by the Trump Administration

As part of the 100 Day Action Plan on economic issues that the U.S. and China negotiated back in May, there was agreement by both sides to liberalize trade in a few areas. It was a relatively minor set of issues, but nonetheless there was some real progress. The Trump administration likes to tout exports, not imports, so in their remarks about the agreement, they tended to focus on areas of interest to U.S. exporters. To provide some balance, I’m going to take it upon myself to tell everyone about some import liberalization the U.S. carried out as part of this agreement. 

In the agreement, the U.S. said it would start to allow imports of certain Chinese chicken products:

The United States and China are to resolve outstanding issues for the import of China origin cooked poultry to the United States as soon as possible, and after reaching consensus, the United States is to publish a proposed rule by July 16, 2017, at the latest, with the United States realizing China poultry exports as soon as possible.

This past week‐​end, a Washington Post story indicated that these imports are now underway:

The first known shipment of cooked chicken from China reached the United States last week, following a much‐​touted trade deal between the Trump administration and the Chinese government.

The Post article has a lot of fearmongering in it. The online title is “The dark side of Trump’s much‐​hyped China trade deal: It could literally make you sick.” And the article says, “consumer groups and former food‐​safety officials are warning that the chicken could pose a public health risk, arguing that China has made only minor progress in overhauling a food safety regime that produced melamine‐​laced infant formula and deadly dog biscuits.”

But before anyone panics, there is also this from the article:

Because cooking kills bacteria and viruses, including the one that causes bird flu, processed poultry is considered “tremendously safer” than raw chicken, said Richard Raymond, who served as undersecretary of agriculture for food safety from 2005 to 2008.

Anyway, the Chinese exporters will have a pretty big incentive to ensure the safety of the products: If there are health and safety problems, consumers won’t buy them (and the U.S. government might restore the ban). 

It remains to be seen what is coming from the Trump administration on trade policy more generally. But it’s nice to see a bit of import liberalization, especially given the protectionist rhetoric we keep hearing.