SALEM, Ohio – U.S. beef will be back in business in China as soon as some technical details are worked out, according to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, U.S. Trade Ambassador Rob Portman and Gutierrez met with Vice Premier Wu Yi April 11 for the annual Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting. At the meeting, China conditionally agreed to resume imports of U.S. beef.
“The decision comes after lengthy technical discussions and is based on evidence that our safeguards work and that science supports the safety of U.S. beef,” Johanns said.
It is unclear what the technical details are or how long it will take to work them out.
The U.S. and China agreed to work quickly to solidify the terms of the market opening, Gutierrez said.
Good deal. Brian Roe, an associate professor in the department of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State University, said the agreement is a good deal, but not necessarily a big deal.
Roe said China was not a large importer of U.S. beef before the ban, but there is potential for the country to import more.
“It (the agreement) is important, not because of historical importance, but because of what could be,” he said.
While China could eventually become a large importer of U.S. beef, Roe said the agreement “won’t move the market” for now.
In 2003, China accounted for $100 million of U.S. beef exports.
Take action. Gregg Doud, chief economist of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said his organization is pleased with the progress and it expects authorities to immediately begin formalizing the terms of trade.
Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, agreed, saying it is important for the negotiations to proceed according to standards outlined by the World Organization for Animal Health.
She also sees China as a large potential market.
“We need to aggressively seek export opportunities and China will be a great outlet for that,” she said.
Harsh and Doud said they would like to see progress on the agreement before Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the U.S. April 20.
Memorandum. In conjunction with the April 11 meeting, Johanns signed a memorandum of understanding with Minister Li Changjiang of China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to improve animal and plant health and food safety.
The memorandum will help the countries address food safety and animal and plant health issues before they become barriers to agricultural trade, Johanns said.
The U.S. and China will exchange information on food regulations and standards, inspection and quarantine procedures and other issues like pests, disease, harmful residues and food certification.
Last year, the U.S. sold more than $6 billion in agricultural products to China, making it America’s fifth largest export market.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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