The annual meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade was held on Wednesday with top U.S. officials. U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi used the meeting as an opportunity to discuss market access for U.S. agricultural providers and the need for China to live up to its World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments.
Since China joined the WTO in December of 2001, it has become the fifth largest market for U.S. agricultural products. Last year the United States by calendar year number enjoyed a $4.1 billion agriculture surplus with China, with total exports of about $5.4 billion, a record amount. Agriculture Secretary predicts that U.S. exports to China have tripled in just two years, with impressive growth in demand for products such as soybeans, cotton, hides and skins and more recently wheat.
Veneman explained that the delegation held "frank and productive talks on a whole host of issues ranging from meat and poultry market access to continued implementation of the accession agreement as well as some of the issues for products that the Chinese are interested in." Veneman says the two nations discussed a mutual desire for greater technical cooperation to improve each other's systems and make them more compatible.
China's actions followed many countries worldwide after recent cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and avian influenza were detected in the United States. Veneman says China's ban on U.S. beef and related products stemming from the BSE issue were discussed. "We have thus requested that China open its market to U.S. beef and beef products. I am pleased to report that China will resume some trade-- trade in embryos, semen and tallow -- and that we will begin further discussions among our experts to enable normal trade to resume on other beef and beef products," Veneman says.
Because China's middle class is growing, the Chinese society is already taking advantage of its rising prosperity. It is common to see that as incomes rise in developing countries, the demand for more and greater quality food and agriculture products also increase. Veneman explains this has been seen in the beef market with an estimated 30% increase in the consumption of in the last five years.
Zoellick says that American agriculture has been one of the great success stories of the U.S.-China trading relationship. Zoellicks says that relationship continues to grow. "In the first two months of 2004 agricultural exports to China grew 18% compared with the same period last year. At that pace, we hope that 2004 will be another record year for American agriculture."