U.S. sorghum producers say they are unfairly caught in the middle of a trade fight between the U.S. and China, which on Tuesday accused the U.S. of dumping the grain on its markets and announced plans to impose a fee of 179 percent on U.S. sorghum imports. At the same time, according to the Financial Times, China said it wold ease ownership rules limiting foreign investment in Chinese automakers.

National Sorghum Producers denied the dumping charge and said there’s plenty of data to show American imports have not caused any harm to the Asian nation.

“We continue to greatly value our Chinese customers and what has been a win-win business relationship between U.S. sorghum producers and our Chinese partners,” the group said in a statement. “Today’s decision in China reflects a broader trade fight in which U.S. sorghum farmers are the victim, not the cause. And U.S. sorghum farmers should not be paying the price for this larger fight.”

China is the biggest customer for U.S. sorghum, buying $960 million worth of the crop last year, according to Chinese customs data.

China’s Commerce Ministry said its ruling was preliminary, and that the fees -- which take effect on Wednesday -- were temporary. It said it would announce a final decision in the sorghum probe at a later date.

China has already said it plans to slap 25 percent tariffs on U.S. sorghum imports as part of retaliatory sanctions on $50 billion of U.S. goods unveiled earlier this month. It’s not clear when those tariffs will take effect.

Beijing has also threatened a 25 percent tariff on soybeans. Last year the Asian nation was the biggest customer for the oilseed from the U.S., buying $12.3 billion in imports.

U.S. trade officials have widely interpreted China’s action on soybeans as retaliation for recent U.S. tariffs on Chinese aluminum, steel, washing machines and other goods, but some see the action as part of China’s continuing effort to block grain imports and reduce massive domestic corn stockpiles.

China's concession on ownership rules that limit investment in Chinese carmakers is the first significant sign that Beijing is willing to bend to the demands of American policymakers, the Financial Times said. The ownership restrictions require foreign companies to set up joint ventures with a Chinese partner in order to manufacture cars in China. Those restrictions would be lifted for commercial vehicles by 2020 and all others by 2022.

Taken together, the action on autos and sorghum, the Times said, is a sign that China is "adopting a carrot-and-stick approach" to its trade dispute with the U.S. 

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