By Yangxuan Liu, John R. C. Robinson, and Don Shurley
On April 4th, 2018, China announced a potential 25 percent increase in import tariffs on major U.S. origin agricultural commodities in retaliation to a series of tariffs proposed by the United States. United States upland cotton is one of the commodities affected by this proposed increase in import tariffs. The export market is an important source of demand for the U.S. cotton industry. The United States is the largest cotton exporting country with around 71.3% of cotton produced in the U.S. exported last year. China is the second largest trading partner with the U.S. for cotton in 2017 and buys 16.7% of the U.S. cotton exports. The total value of cotton exported to China was worth approximately $976 million last year, which is the second highest value among all the other row crops after soybean.
If Chinese tariffs are imposed on U.S. cotton, global cotton suppliers like India, Australia, and Brazil may experience a near-term opportunity to supply more cotton to China. In the short run, the market disruption could be a shock to the U.S. cotton futures market, particularly if hedge fund speculators sell off their long positions. However, the longer-term situation could see more U.S. exports rerouted to other cotton importing countries. This recent history of the change in China’s internal cotton policy suggests a similar reshuffling effect from a bilateral Chinese tariff on imported U.S. cotton. Chinese raw cotton import tariffs would continue to stimulate imports of duty-free yarn from Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Indian subcontinent.