When leaders of the world's largest agricultural products importer and the largest agricultural products exporter meet in constructive dialogue, only good outcomes are to be expected.
That’s the assessment of U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Philip Seng after his participation in this week’s U.S./China High-Level Agricultural Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa. It was part of a five-day U.S. tour by Chinese Vice President President Xi Jinping, who is positioned to be the next leader of China.
The symposium was built around the themes of food safety, food security and sustainability. At the conclusion, Chinese and U.S. representatives signed a five-year cooperative agreement that focuses on those three food-related areas in addition to biotechnology and transparency.
“So often, meetings of this nature are conducted to resolve disputes,” said Seng. “The tone of this meeting was forward-looking and underscores a spirit of cooperation. The atmosphere was favorable to the desired outcome of partnership and collaboration.”
Seng noted that while there are trade issues yet to be resolved between the United States and China, this meeting appeared to be a different approach than the U.S. has taken with other trading partners.
“This was a constructive exchange that other countries may be viewing with circumspection and, possibly, a tinge of envy,” said Seng.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), China became the top market for U.S. agricultural goods last year, purchasing $20 billion worth of U.S. agricultural exports. Those exports supported more than 160,000 American jobs last year across a variety of business sectors, according to the USDA.
In 2011, the China/Hong Kong region was the No. 3 market for U.S. pork exports, purchasing 483,323 metric tons (more than 1 billion pounds) valued at $910 million, increases of 64 percent in volume and 96 percent in value over the prior year.
China is not currently open to U.S. beef exports, but analysts estimate that in the first full year of exports, China likely would purchase at least $200 million of American beef.
“China has 23 percent of the world’s population but only 9 percent of the arable land,” said Seng. “It will always need to import food, and American agriculture is positioned to truly establish a relationship based on trust, transparency and mutual benefit between the two countries.”