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U.S. beef trade with China may start soon after talks
Ohio Correspondent

BEIJING, China — A U.S. delegation recently concluded two days of negotiations with the Chinese government to establish a protocol for the resumption of U.S. beef sales to China.

“We’ve made considerable progress with China during these discussions to reopen their market to U.S. beef, and we will meet again soon to conclude the talks,” said Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services J.B. Penn. “We also developed and completed a memorandum of cooperation that provides a basis for addressing food-safety issues on an ongoing basis.”

The discussions in Beijing follow the 17th U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) meeting in Washington last month at which China agreed to reopen its market to U.S. beef prior to June 30 following the development of a science-based trading protocol, consistent with World Organization for Animal Health guidelines.

“Our message to China has been consistent and clear,” said U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman following last month’s meeting. “American exporters, workers, farmers and service providers deserve the same access to Chinese markets as China has to our markets.”

Following the JCCT meeting, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Minister Li Changjiang of China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to improve bilateral cooperation on animal and plant health and food safety.

Under the MOU, the two countries will exchange information on food regulation and standards, inspection and quarantine procedures and other issues such as pest and disease, harmful residues and food certification.

“China is an increasingly important market for U.S. food and agricultural products,” Johanns said. “In 2005, U.S. farmers and ranchers sold more than $6 billion in agricultural products to China, making it our fifth largest export market.”

China and several other East Asian countries banned imports of U.S. beef when a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow disease) was confirmed in the United States in December 2003 in a single cow of Canadian origin. Two other cases have been confirmed in the United States since then, but after two years of extensive testing, USDA reported in April that the incidence of BSE in the United States is extremely low, with no more than 4-7 cases indicated in a cattle population of about 42 million.

The U.S. delegation was led by Penn and included representatives from USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The Chinese delegation was led by the Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine Vice Minister Ge Zhirong and included various representatives from the Chinese government.

A second round of talks is expected to occur within the next few weeks according to a USDA spokesman.

In addition, USDA officials are traveling to Japan to continue discussion on the resumption of U.S. beef sales to Japan. Acting Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Chuck Lambert and Ellen Terpstra, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services, are leading the delegation to Japan.

Japan partially lifted a two-year ban on U.S. beef imports in December 2005, allowing the entry of boneless beef and beef products from cattle less than 30 months of age. Japan reinstated the ban in January of this year when prohibited bone fragments were found in a shipment of veal.

This farm news was published in the May 31, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.