A ship docked at a port in Rizhao, Shandong province, China. Picture: REUTERS
A ship docked at a port in Rizhao, Shandong province, China. Picture: REUTERS

Beijing — China will lower tariffs on products ranging from frozen pork and avocado to some types of semiconductors in 2020 as Beijing looks to boost imports amid a slowing economy and a trade war with the US.

Next year, China will implement temporary import tariffs, which are lower than the most-favoured-nation tariffs, on more than 850 products, the finance ministry said on Monday. That compared with 706 products that were taxed at temporary rates in 2019.

The tariff changes were made to “increase imports of products facing a relative domestic shortage, or foreign speciality goods for everyday consumption”, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

China and the US cooled their drawn-out trade war earlier in December, announcing a Phase One agreement that will reduce some US tariffs in exchange for more Chinese purchases of US farm products and other goods.

The finance ministry said the tariff rate for frozen pork will be cut to 8% from the most-favoured-nation duty of 12%, as China copes to plug a huge supply gap after a severe outbreak of African swine fever in August 2018. This nearly halved China's pig herd, official data showed, sending pork prices soaring to record levels.

Beijing has issued a series of measures to boost pig production, while increasing imports of various meats to meet domestic demand. China brought in 229,707 tons of pork in November, up more than 150% from the previous year. Pork imports for the first 11 months of the year stood at 1.733-million tons, up 58% from a year earlier.

China will also lower temporary import tariffs for ferroniobium — used as an additive to high-strength low-alloy steel and stainless steel for oil and gas pipelines, cars and trucks — from 1% to 0 in 2020 to support its high-tech development. The country brought in 35,909 tons of ferroniobium in 2018 and 37,818 tons for the first 10 months of 2019.

The tariff rate for frozen avocado was cut to 7% from the most-favoured-nation duty of 30%, the ministry said.

China’s economy is expanding at its weakest rate in nearly 30 years and could face more downward pressure in 2020, but the government has vowed to keep growth within a reasonable range policies forward-looking and effective.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said China had agreed to buy $200bn worth of additional US goods and services over the next two years as part of the Phase One trade pact to be signed in early January. If the purchases are made, they would represent a huge jump in US exports to China.

Beijing has said the increased purchases are in line with the growing need of the Chinese people, as the country opens its markets further to global trade. Tariffs for some asthma and diabetes medications will be set at zero, the ministry said, while duties on some wood and paper products will be lowered too.

Import tariffs on multicomponent semiconductors will be cut to zero. China will also further lower most-favoured-nation import tariffs on some information technology products from July 1, the ministry said.