WASHINGTON, June 8, 2016 - USDA’s efforts to approve China to export processed chicken to the U.S. sets a strong example of how trade should be based on science and international rules, Alexis Taylor, the department’s deputy under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service, said Wednesday.
China is already cleared to export processed chicken to the U.S., but it’s not allowed to ship meat from birds that were grown and slaughtered in China. The meat must have originated in the U.S., Canada or Chile. But that may change soon because in March USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said it approved several Chinese chicken slaughter and processing plants to ship Chinese-origin chicken to the U.S.
“It’s about leveling the playing field,” Taylor told a group of American Agri-Women members visiting USDA headquarters in Washington. “When we want other people to treat us fairly, we have to treat them fairly.”
The U.S. has been trying to persuade China to lift its ban on U.S. beef since 2003 when the U.S. found its first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. China also continues to maintain a total ban on U.S. poultry and eggs – imposed in 2015 as avian influenza decimated U.S. layer hens and turkeys – even though most countries only placed regional bans on U.S. products.
USDA and industry officials have long complained that if the Chinese simply followed science, they would have opened to U.S. beef years ago, and the country would only be barring the entry of poultry and eggs from areas that were affected by the bird flu.
“The (World Organization for Animal Health) said we are a negligible risk for BSE and that there should be no trade restrictions (on beef),” Taylor said. Still, the U.S. had to spend a “significant amount of time and resources” to persuade countries “to do the right thing and follow the science and international standards.” She said that’s what the U.S. is attempting to do with China’s request to export chicken to the U.S.
The U.S. has had several recent successes in getting China to open its markets, namely to U.S. apples and strawberries, Taylor told Agri-Pulse after the meeting with American Agri-Women, examples, she said, of improving trade relations.
“We’re working towards a mature trading relationship,” Taylor said. “They’re one of our top trading partners consistently, so we just continue to work on priority issues on both sides – for us and for them.”
As to the importance of letting Chinese chicken into the U.S., she said: “I think it’s been a priority for the Chinese for a long time – one we’ve certainly been working with them on to really follow a rules-based, science-based approach which our meat equivalence system is based on.”
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