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This paper examines the composition of China’s international trade from 1980 to 1997, with a focus on agriculture and a view towards understanding agriculture’s changing trade structure relative to other sectors. We analyse the time series behaviour of individually traded goods at the Standard Industrial Trade Classification three‐digit level, categorised into three groups: agricultural commodities, ‘other’ primary commodities and manufactures. We find that China’s agricultural trade has expanded along comparative advantage lines in only a very modest way, suggesting that World Trade Organization membership will have a large impact on China’s agricultural trade patterns.


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