The accession of China to the World Trade Organisation, which had been expected to be completed by this spring, has been delayed because of US concerns about future food production subsidies, and may now be postponed beyond the end of this year.

With the striking of bilateral deals between China and the US and the EU last year, it had been assumed that a meeting of the WTO working party on Chinese accession last month would pave the way for the WTO General Council to admit China to the world’s trade guardian within weeks.

But the Americans have objected to China’s bid to be treated as a developing country regarding agricultural subsidies, which would enable it to support farmers up to 10% of the value of their production. The US wants China to be viewed as a developed country and have a 5% cap.

Given that Chinese subsidies currently equal 2% of production value, the scope for increasing subsidies has alarmed the powerful American wheat lobby and apple juice producers in the north west of the US.

By Keith Nuthall, correspondent