American farmers have arguably suffered the greatest collateral damage in President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China, and things could get even worse. A landmark ruling last month by the World Trade Organization—one of Trump’s favorite targets—should have been good news for American farmers, since it could provide a bit of relief for them from the trade war. But even that small compensation is now likely to be delayed or lost—again because of Trump.
Even if Trump’s trade war with China ends soon, American farmers are going to struggle to regain the markets they once had there. Making matters worse is Trump’s antipathy to the WTO. In late February, the WTO announced that a dispute settlement panel had agreed with the United States that Chinese agricultural subsidies were higher than allowed under international rules. The case was originally brought to the WTO under the Obama administration, in 2016. U.S. trade officials argued that the Chinese government was exceeding the cap on subsidies for wheat, corn and rice that it had agreed to when China joined the WTO.
An announcement in another case before the WTO involving Chinese agricultural trade barriers is expected soon, and many experts believe U.S. arguments will prevail in that one as well. That case, which was also begun under President Barack Obama, covers technical issues with how China implements minimum import requirements for commodities subject to quantitative restrictions. A number of other agricultural exporting countries joined both complaints as third parties, indicating the depth of the concern about Chinese agricultural practices.