US and China agree on beef that can go east

US beef will be heading to China again after a 14-year hiatus

US beef sales to China could soon be reinstated now the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finalised trade rules covering traceability and types of meat eligible for export.

Final details on the type of beef eligible for Chinese export have been realised by the US government.

Beef can only come from Canadian, Mexican or US cattle. If US-raised, cattle must be traceable to the farm of birth. Cows imported from Mexico or Canada must be traceable to the first US farm or port they entered via.

Only chilled or frozen bone-in and deboned beef derived from cows less than 30-months-old will enter China’s $2.6bn import beef market.

The only remaining hurdle to resuming imports after a 2003 bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case froze America out of the market is to get a factory approved again.

Praise for the commander in chief

USDA secretary Sonny Perdue said the finalised documentation for beef exports represented a “great day” for America and its divisive President Donald Trump.

Perdue said Trump had brought “momentum, optimism, and results” to American farming.

The agricultural secretary was not the only one to heap praise on Trump.

Secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross said the president – who heavily criticised China during his election - is doing more to improve ties with the country than his predecessors. “President Trump is doing more to improve the US-China relationship than any president in decades, and this final beef protocol agreement represents even more concrete progress,” said Ross.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer also praised Donald Trump: “The President’s firm commitment to fair trade that benefits the United States has made this new US beef export opportunity possible. I encourage China and all countries to base their requirements on international standards and science.

Secretary of the treasury Steven Mnuchin applauded the “results-orientated approach” Trump took, adding: “We will continue to work toward a more fair and balanced economic relationship with China.

Triumphant trade bodies voice support

US Meat Export Federation president Philip Seng thanked the government for its “tireless efforts” on improving ties with China. He did, though, warn that the deal would require a period of “adjustment”, as meeting the tough traceability requirements “will add costs” to cattle ranchers whose produce will be priced at a premium compared to competitors.

Other US-based meat trade association were also quick to praise the government and did not comment on the extra administration costs Seng alluded to.

The administration showed great leadership in reaching this deal with the Chinese government quickly and in negotiating such positive terms for access,” said North American Meat Institute president and CEO Barry Carpenter. “The demand in China for high quality US beef is high, so opening the market offers great potential for our businesses and the US economy as a whole.

Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), said: “NCBA commends the leadership of President Trump and our skilled negotiators who were able to restore US beef access to China, something that has been a top priority for NCBA.

China is the world’s largest pork importer and has recently become one of the world’s largest markets for beef too with imports rising from $275m in 2012 to $2.5bn last year.

Asia is important for the US, one of the world’s largest beef producers, as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan make up four of its top six beef export markets.

Full requirements for exporting US beef to China can be accessed here.

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