China to resume U.S. beef imports by mid-July

By Tom Johnston on 5/12/2017

The White House late Thursday announced a deal whereby China, after one more round of technical consultations, agreed to resume imports of U.S. beef starting no later than July 16. 

The Chinese market has been closed to U.S. beef for nearly 14 years due to concerns stemming from a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy that occurred in Washington state in December 2003.

Industry leaders have long been pressing for a breakthrough with China, whose market is estimated to be worth $2.6 billion for the U.S. beef industry.

“The meat industry has long sought access to the Chinese market for U.S. beef, making today’s announcement a significant and very welcome milestone,” said Mike Townsley, president and CEO of Bob Evans Farms and chairman of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI). “High quality beef is in high demand in China, so the deal has great potential for both our businesses and the U.S. economy as a whole.”

“It’s impossible to overstate how beneficial this will be for America’s cattle producers,” National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Craig Uden said.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) joined NAMI and NCBA in lauding the Trump administration for the achievement.

China has twice before agreed to grant market access to U.S. beef but regulatory hurdles have prevented any real trade to materialize.

U.S. beef industry stakeholders applauded a similar announcement last September. At the time USMEF cautioned that while it was a good first step, USDA and its Chinese counterparts still had to negotiate conditions for U.S. beef to enter that market.

Since then, beef industry groups have been calling on the Trump Administration to take action on the issue.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to advance a 100-day economic cooperation action plan, including the U.S. beef trade issue. The agreement states that after one more round of technical consultations between the two countries, China is to allow imports of U.S. beef on conditions consistent with international food safety and animal health standards and consistent with the 1999 Agricultural Cooperation Agreement, beginning as soon as possible but no later than July 16.