By Josh Maples, Mississippi State University |
It was reported last week that China has agreed to allow beef imports from the U.S. for the first time since 2003. This announcement follows a very similar announcement made in September of 2016, though no actual trade has occurred yet. Gaining access to the most populated country in the world would be a very positive development for the U.S. beef industry. China represents a multibillion-dollar market and has the greatest growth potential for beef consumption of any country in the world. China has a large and growing middle class and has experienced steady increases in beef consumption. China and Hong Kong combined to be the largest beef importers in the world in 2016. While the U.S. already exports to Hong Kong, 87 percent of China’s 2016 beef imports were from Brazil, Uruguay, Australia, and New Zealand.
If the U.S. is going to be able to export beef to China, a bilateral agreement over trade specifications must be reached by both countries. The three step process for resuming trade was discussed in a USDA Foreign Agriculture Service report last September (available here). The first step was lifting the ban on U.S. beef. The second and third steps involve negotiating export protocol conditions and an audit of these protocols. The report also pointed toward the discussion of traceability requirements as part of the protocol negotiation. The announcement made last week should be viewed more of a repeat of the first step. Continue reading