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USMEF-Led Industry Team Concludes China Meetings

Published: Jun 13, 2011
A team of U.S. red meat industry leaders continued its series of high-level meetings in China last week with a session with China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and its subsidiary, the quasi-governmental trade association named the China Chamber of Commerce of Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (CFNA).

U.S. representatives from the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Meat Association and American Meat Institute met with representatives of MOFCOM, CFNA and several international food companies, including COFCO, China’s largest food importer and exporter, at an informal dinner. The U.S. team heard the Chinese delegation send a clear message that the Chinese government is directly linking access for U.S. beef to China and access for Chinese cooked poultry to the United States.

A senior MOFCOM official who oversees U.S.-China bilateral trade relations stated – using English – that there would be positive results for other U.S. agricultural trade if China gained access for cooked poultry to the U.S. He said that China sees clear parallels between its quest for cooked poultry access to the U.S. and the U.S. objective of regaining access for its beef in China and recommended that both sides look for ways to achieve access on a step-by-step basis.

The U.S. industry representatives met afterward with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) team based in Beijing to discuss a variety of approaches that might be employed to help move the process forward.

“Our delegation repeatedly expressed our frustration over the current lack of access for U.S. beef to all of the Chinese officials we met during our stay in Beijing,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “In response we were left with the impression that there does not seem to be any reticence among MOFCOM or AQSIQ (China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine) officials to restarting negotiations on U.S. beef imports with the objective of resolving the outstanding issues on beef and poultry in a coordinated fashion. We believe that many in China would welcome the return of U.S. beef to the market and, in the meantime, demand is evident everywhere.”

Seng used the opportunity to emphasize to the Chinese hosts the export capabilities of the U.S. pork industry, noting that the U.S. is aware China is experiencing record high pork prices. U.S. pork exports to China through April of 2011 reached 81,819 metric tons (180.4 million pounds) valued at $122.8 million, increases of 1,167 percent in volume and 379 percent in value versus last year when H1N1 related restrictions limited U.S. pork exports to China through the first quarter. USMEF met with hog industry analysts last week, who stated that disease issues last winter and spring were more serious than reported.

China also has experienced record high beef prices in recent weeks. Executives from several Chinese livestock companies reported to the visiting U.S. team that live cattle and hog supplies were tight.

“The longer we remain excluded from the China beef market, the more opportunities are available to our competitors to build their marketing infrastructure and capture buyer loyalty,” said Seng.

The USMEF-led delegation also met with the leadership of the China Meat Association (CMA) representing China's meat processing sector. They formalized a relationship whereby USMEF and CMA would meet on an annual basis to exchange information on industry trends and growth prospects. In a separate meeting with association heads representing China’s livestock and poultry importers and exporters, USMEF was asked to present information on U.S. livestock industry trends to its members at a conference in the fall.

The U.S. team moves from China to Taiwan and Japan this week. National Pork Producers Council CEO Neil Dierks joins the delegation in Taiwan.