In an announcement that was as surprising as it was welcome, China’s premier announced that the country will begin accepting U.S. beef from animals under 30 months of age.
Speaking to U.S. business groups in New York, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China would soon allow imports of U.S. beef, according to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report. “We also recognize that the United States has very good beef, so why should we deny Chinese customers this choice?” Li said.
The announcement potentially ends a 13-year ban on U.S. beef by China, first implemented following the first BSE case in America. But much work still remains before shipments resume.
“This is great news for U.S. beef producers,” said Kent Bacus, director of international trade for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “While these initial reports are positive, we must continue technical negotiations and undergo the process of formally approving export certificates.”
China is already the world’s second largest buyer of beef, and with a growing middle class, the export opportunities for U.S. cattlemen and women are tremendous, Baucus added.
The next step is for USDA officials to work with China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to approve the certificates and protocols for exports.
The news was welcomed by ag groups in the U.S., including the North American Meat Institute and the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “Reopening the Chinese market has been a top priority for Meat Institute members for more than a decade,” said President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “It is a market with a high demand for beef and our members are prepared to offer the highest quality beef in the world.”
“USDA and USTR have led the way in restoring market access for U.S. beef in recent years, and we are proud to partner in those efforts,” said Carpenter. “Science-based free trade has numerous benefits for the U.S., and reopening the Chinese market as well as a TPP deal are great examples of the opportunities in the Pacific region.”
Though the premier didn’t give a specific timetable, trade groups have previously said imports may resume before the end of the year, according to the WSJ report.
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