China’s trading partners are bringing the top U.N. food standards official to Beijing in a last-ditch attempt to persuade regulators to scale back plans to require intensive inspections of food imports — including such low-risk items as wine and chocolate — that Washington and Europe say could disrupt billions of dollars in commerce.
The rule could inflame tensions with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has promised to raise tariffs on imports from China, and the European Union.
Under the rule, due to take effect as early as October, each consignment of food would require a certificate from a foreign inspector confirming it meets Chinese quality standards. Other countries require such inspections only for meat, dairy and other perishable items.
That alarms suppliers that see China as a growing market for American fruit juice and snack foods, French wine, German chocolate, Italian pasta and Australian orange juice. They complain that Beijing already uses safety rules in ways that hamper access for beef and other goods in violation of its market-opening commitments.
“It could bring down food imports quite dramatically,” said the German ambassador to Beijing, Michael Clauss. “It often seems it is more about protecting Chinese producers than about food safety.”