Original Story from the Associated Press

Report leads Chinese consul general to invite Oregon hazelnut representatives for meeting.

At least one agricultural industry is utilizing the possibility of Chinese tariffs as an opportunity.

The Oregon hazelnut industry is hoping that an unexpected communication from the Consulate General Office of China will lead to reduction or elimination of a prohibitive tariff that for years has stripped the industry of direct sales opportunities in China.

“They did not commit or promise anything,” said Terry Ross of the Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association after meeting with Chinese officials. “They just said the door is open, the dialogue has been created, that they look forward to working with us in the future and that they would send a message back to Beijing on our behalf.”

The connection between the Chinese Consulate Office in San Francisco and the Oregon hazelnut industry started inadvertently enough after a news report aired on Portland television station KATU on April 3 about the effects of additional tariffs on Oregon hazelnut shipments to China.

Ross told KATU reporter Joe Douglass that he viewed the short-term trade situation as an opportunity for cooperation. While the Oregon hazelnut industry ships roughly half of its hazelnuts to Asia, the industry for several years has been shut out from selling directly to China because of a 25 percent tariff on its hazelnuts.

“For us the potential for new tariffs was of less concern, because we were already at a real disadvantage to other nuts in China anyway,” Ross said. He added that Chinese tariffs on California pistachios, which directly compete with Oregon hazelnuts in China, are 5 percent, and Chilean hazelnuts enter China duty-free.

Ross told KATU that he viewed the current situation as an opportunity to shine a light on the Oregon hazelnut industry’s disadvantage in China and stress the need for cooperation and communication.

The tactic worked better than probably even Ross expected. The day after the KATU report, Ross received an email from the Consulate General Office of China in San Francisco.

“They said, ‘We saw your comments and would like to talk further and listen to your opinions and advice on the topic,’” Ross said.

The office invited Ross and hazelnut processor Larry George, of George Packing Co. in Newberg, Ore., to meet with Deputy Consul General Ren Faqiang and the Vice Consul from Economic and Commercial Office Zhang Taiming.

“Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity and agreed to make the trip there Monday (April 9),” Ross said. “The China/Oregon ties are historically very strong, so dialogue and communication can only help in lowering the tariffs that put Oregon hazelnuts at a huge disadvantage to other U.S. and Chilean nuts in the Chinese market.”

Ross said the two-hour meeting went well.

“It was a very positive meeting. We are excited to continue these discussions and look forward to any future advancement on this issue,” he said.

“We also want to thank the Deputy Consul General of China Mr. Ren Faqiang and the Vice Consul Zhang Taiming for inviting us to meet with them,” he said.