WASHINGTON, April 2 – The United States and China made progress last week toward resolving a number of farm trade disputes in the near future, a senior USDA official told Agri-Pulse.
Michael Scuse, acting Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural services (FFAS), put “an extremely productive” label on the latest round of bilateral talks, held in Beijing, on such issues as speedier Chinese approval of imports of U.S. crops containing new biotech traits, the resumption of American beef shipments, and improved market access for Chinese ag exports.
“Progress was made on some of the issues they have with us and I think progress was made on some of the issues we have with them,” Scuse said as he wrapped ten days of meetings with Chinese government and agriculture officials.
“What this trip did, I think, is give both sides a much better understanding of what our next steps need to be.”
China became the No. 1 buyer of U.S. ag exports in fiscal 2011, with sales valued at $22.8 billion, and two-way farm trade reached an all-time high of $32.1 billion.
China is the largest importer of American soybeans and cotton. Currently, the Asian giant’s import approval process for GM crops takes on average 2-3 years.
“We’re afraid that there might eventually be a market disruption” if Chinese regulators do not issue import permits for biotech corn, cotton and soybeans “in a more timely fashion,” explained Scuse, who led the U.S negotiating team which included Darci Vetter, FFAS deputy undersecretary, and Islam Siddiqui, chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
China’s vice minister of agriculture accepted an invitation to travel to Washington for a briefing on the U.S. government’s biotech permitting process.
Beijing’s inability to provide reliable forecasts of domestic grain production, stocks and demand, a longstanding complaint of U.S. traders, was also discussed.
Scuse said he gave his Chinese counterparts a few pointers on how USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service provides information on forecasting and production in the United States.
In addition to a fresh exchange of views on steps needed to reopen the Chinese market to American beef, the two sides also engaged in dialogue about China’s “unfortunate” ban on imports of U.S. poultry from three states due to low-pathogenic avian influenza, Scuse said.
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