China announced on Sunday that it is considering imposing huge taxes on imported American chicken wings and feet in response to President Obama’s approval of a tariff on Chinese made tires, according to a recent New York Times article. The tariff of up to 35% on tires was approved by Obama in an attempt to promote the American auto industry and, in a larger sense, to lower the deficit by focusing on national production instead of importing. This is just the latest development in an ongoing trade battle between the United States and China that escalated in 2004 when the US put a ban on the import of chicken from China in response to the outbreak of avian flu, and China enacted a ban on imported chicken from the US in retaliation. China lifted its ban quickly and the US has amended its ban to allow cooked chicken that has been imported from the US or Canada. While President Obama’s plan to help the economy by importing less is a sound idea, it could severely damage trade relations with China.
So, you ask, what does this have to do with cooking? Well, Chinese people love chicken feet, especially from the United States where breeding chickens specifically for their white meat results in large, plump chicken feet. Chicken feet and wings are considered a delicacy in China, where over $853 million was spent importing chicken from the US last year; no surprise considering most chicken sold in China is either canned or frozen. The American poultry industry could stand to lose a lot of money from chicken exports, especially when the sale of chicken in the US has declined due to a struggling economy and restaurant closings. However despite last Sunday’s announcement, poultry producers have continued to receive orders from customers in China, causing some experts to wonder if China’s love for chicken feet will outweigh the anger of the Chinese government over the tire tariffs.
The issue, for now, seems to be at a stalemate: China enjoys the chicken products that the US exports, as well as the revenue from Chinese exports to the US. The US imports a large amount of goods from China and the poultry industry is largely dependent on China since the US economy is not able to support it alone. There is a lot to lose on both sides of this dispute and any wrong move could seriously damage trade relations between these two countries. At this point, the only hope for a resolution rests on a large, chewy, chicken foot.