US beef imports cleared by China after 14 years

China lifts ban on imports of US beef. Picture: iStock

The US and China have reached a trade deal that includes beef and poultry.

Following one more round of technical consultations between the two countries, China will lift a ban on imports of US beef beginning no later than 16 July.

They are to resolve outstanding issues for import of China origin cooked poultry to the US as soon as possible and the US is to publish a proposed rule by 16 July with the US taking China poultry exports as soon as possible.

US beef imports were banned in 2003 following bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) concerns.

The Chinese market is estimated to be worth $2.6bn for the US beef industry. At the time of closure Chinese beef imports were $64m.   

Asian countries make up some of the largest markets for US beef with Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan making up four of the top six export markets, accounting for $3.6bn in value in 2016.

A welcome reaction

The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) welcomed the announcement and efforts of the Trump administration and officials at USDA and USTR that made it possible.

It is part of a 10-point deal following trade talks last month.

Craig Uden, president at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, welcomed the move after being locked out of the world’s largest market for more than a decade.

“It’s impossible to overstate how beneficial this will be for America’s cattle producers, and the Trump Administration deserves a lot of credit for getting this achieved.

“We look forward to providing nearly 1.4 billion new customers in China with the same safe and delicious US beef that we feed our families. I look forward to the day when we can serve President Trump and President Xi a dry-aged American-made New York strip in Beijing.”

The North American Meat Institute said the deal sets clear action steps to open the market.

Mike Townsley, Meat Institute chairman and Bob Evans Farms president and CEO, said the industry has long sought access to the Chinese market for US beef.

“High quality beef is in high demand in China, so the deal has great potential for both our businesses and the US economy as a whole.”

Barry Carpenter, Institute president and CEO, said: “The beef deal is a significant, concrete accomplishment resulting from the 100-day plan established by President Trump and President Xi at their summit."

Chicken approved; now for broiler access?

Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, said it was a positive to break down existing obstacles that have been preventing US chicken from regaining access to the Chinese market. 

"With the announcement of US beef access to China, we encourage the administration to continue their work to remove China's obstacles preventing US broiler access to their marketplace,” he said

"In order to be effective, free trade must operate as a two-way street. I am optimistic that as our negotiators continue the dialogue with China, US broiler access issues will be resolved expeditiously."

US chicken has been blocked by China since January 2015, when the country issued a blanket ban on all US poultry over issues related to avian influenza. 

Poultry exports to China peaked in 2008, with an export value of $722m.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said the US is right to hold trading partners accountable and to the standards advanced economies should follow.

“These standards include following science on food safety and animal health, not shutting out a product for protectionist or political reasons. I look forward to more progress on market access for US beef and the many other commodities, goods and services out of Iowa and the rest of the country.”

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said he and his team at the Nebraska Department of Agriculture have forged relationships with the Chinese government and business community to help grow Nebraska in the Chinese marketplace.

The Governor led a trade mission to China on Nebraska beef last year with potential customers in anticipation of the market re-opening.

In 2015, he visited Beijing to urge the Chinese government to reopen the market to American beef.

“We have been anticipating this announcement and have already been working to build key partnerships in China for Nebraska beef,” said Greg Ibach, director of Nebraska’s Department of Agriculture (NDA).

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