WASHINGTON, May 11, 2017 – When President Donald Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping about a month ago, they agreed on a 100-day action plan to address trade barriers between the two countries. Now those discussions appear to be clearing the way for more U.S. beef and biotechnology.

The three co-chairs – Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and China’s Vice Premier Wang Yang – were able to reach consensus on issues including agricultural trade, financial services, investment and energy, according to a joint release and fact sheet issued by the U.S. Commerce Department on Thursday night.

As Agri-Pulse has previously reported, negotiators cut a deal on both U.S. beef and Chinese chicken. China will once again allow imports of U.S. beef – following one more round of technical consultations between the two countries. At the same time, the U.S. is to resolve issues to allow Chinese cooked poultry to be exported to the U.S. The timeline for both: as soon as possible, but no later than July 16, 2017.

“The United States Cattlemen’s Association applauds President Donald J. Trump, Secretary Perdue, and Members of the House and Senate for making U.S. beef access to China a priority issue and appreciates the efforts by all to see this agreement through to completion,” said USCA President Kenny Graner. “Market access to China is crucial for U.S. cattle producers. Success in this arena will drive the U.S. cattle market and increase demand for U.S beef. USCA looks forward to working with this Administration to establish U.S. beef access to China during the final rounds of these technical consultations.”

Craig Uben, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said that “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 U.S. 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.”

Mike Townsley, chairman of the North American Meat Institute and president and CEO of Bob Evans Farms, said "high quality beef is in high demand in China, so the deal has great potential for both our businesses and the U.S. economy as a whole.”

China has become the second largest beef importer in the world and it’s getting that meat from countries like Australia. China buys about $2.6 billion worth of beef every year, according to data from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.China didn’t import much beef when the country first banned U.S. product after the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was discovered here in December, 2003. But that has changed significantly because of rapidly rising demand in the country.

In addition, China’s National Biosafety Committee (NBC) is to hold a meeting by the end of May to evaluate all eight pending U.S. biotechnology product applications to assess their safety. Applicants will not be asked to provide additional information unrelated to the safety of those products. For products that pass the NBC’s safety evaluations, China is to grant certificates within 20 working days. For any that fail the review process, the agreement establishes a protocol for identifying the reasons for rejection.

The promise of the approvals will be welcome news for U.S. seed companies, farmers and exporters, but the end goal of the U.S. ag sector when it comes to biotechnology is an overhaul of China’s approval process. China’s continued insistence that it not begin its approval process until new traits have already been approved in another country adds years to the time that it takes for biotech seed companies can get their products on the market.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization welcomed the commitments, but the group wants to make sure China lives up to them.

“Considering the history of this issue, the ultimate test of success will be for China to follow its process and quickly approve the eight pending biotechnology applications and establish a synchronized, timely and predictable process going forward,” said Joseph Damond, BIO's executive vice president for international affaisr.  

Other parts of the agreement deal with liquefied natural gas, financial services, and other topics. The entire fact sheet is available here.