China to recommence US beef import after 14 years

China plans to resume U.S. beef imports, which were halted in 2003, in a move to boost economic ties and further balance the trade surplus with the United States.

The two countries finalized protocol details that mean US exporters can prepare for their first shipments in 14 years. It is set to take effect from mid-July. The details of conditions American cattle producers must comply with to commercially export U.S. beef and beef products to China for the first time since 2003 were finalized by The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Chinese government, the federal agency announced Monday.

Originally proposed on May 11 as part of the “U.S.-China 100-Day Action plan,” Chinese and American officials worked to iron out the final details of a new protocol permitting the export of beef to China. The USDA posted technical documents on the protocol on Monday.

“Today is a great day for the United States and in particular for our cattle producers, who will be regaining access to an enormous market within an ever-expanding middle class,” said a statement by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which approves applications to export to China, posted requirements for the Export Verification program for U.S. makers of beef and beef products shipping goods to China. The agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also published an updated online Export Library entry on requirements on certification of beef being shipped from the U.S. to China.

“Building on this progress, closer economic and trade ties are expected between China and the U.S., said Wei Jianguo, vice-president of the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges in a report published in The China Post. “Sino-U.S. trade will likely boom this year, with China’s imports from the U.S. growing faster than its exports. The US trade deficit with China is predicted to decrease significantly,” he said.

During their April meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, Chinese premier Xi and US president Trump agreed to establish a comprehensive economic dialogue and initiate a 100-day economic cooperation plan. In May, the two nations announced initial results in areas like agriculture, electronic payments, financial services and energy.

U.S. beef was banned in China in 2003 after a scare over mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Since then, U.S. producers and government bodies have been making attempts to reopen the market.

According to the USDA, U.S. producers must track the origin of the U.S.-born cattle destined for export to China. Shipments must come from cattle less than 30 month sold, and the meat should not contain growth promoters.

China has become one of the largest import markets for beef. Beef imports exceeded 1.02 million metric tons in 2016, up 12.6 percent from the same period the previous year, according to the General Administration of Customs.

China also is working on importing more U.S. soybeans and cotton as well as advance manufactured items, officials said.

Sino-US trade increased from $2.5 billion in 1979 to $524.3 billion last year. The U.S.trade deficit with China was $164.8 billion in 2016.

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