China has delayed enforcing sweeping new controls on food imports following complaints by the United States, Europe and other trading partners that they would disrupt billions of dollars in trade. Rules requiring each food shipment to have an inspection certificate from a foreign government were due to take effect Sunday. But Beijing has decided to grant a "transitional period of 2 years" following comments by other governments, according to a document submitted to the World Trade Organization on Monday and seen by The Associated Press.
It gave no details, but the delay might help to avert concerns that shipments of meat, fruit, dairy and other products might be disrupted, hurting thousands of farmers and food processors who look to China as a key growth market. The dispute added to trade tensions with the United States and Europe, which complain low-priced exports of Chinese steel and aluminum are hurting foreign competitors and threatening jobs. The food rules prompted unusually broad opposition. Governments said little in public, but a coalition including the United States, European Union, Japan, Australia and Argentina lobbied Beijing to scale back the requirement. They urged China to follow global practice and apply it only to high-risk food. Some officials suggested Beijing was trying to restrict imports in violation of its market-opening promises. Foreign suppliers complain Beijing already uses safety rules in ways that hamper access for beef and other goods.