Cattlemen Watching Trade Discussions with China
WASHINGTON - When Chinese President Hu Jintao sits down with President Bush at tomorrow’s White House meeting, cattle producers will be waiting to hear if the two world leaders made further progress on the issue of beef trade.
After months of discussions between U.S. and Chinese officials and a push by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) to resolve outstanding trade issues with China, U.S. cattle producers are ready to return to this growing market. “All signs indicate that significant progress is being made with regard to beef trade,” says NCBA Chief Economist Gregg Doud.
Following last week’s meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), China committed to reopening its market to U.S. beef exports and addressing a number of other trade concerns. This was welcome news to U.S. cattle producers who have been shut out of the Chinese market since December 23, 2003, when the U.S. announced it’s first-ever case of BSE in a Canadian-born cow. U.S. and Chinese officials have scheduled a technical discussion for mid-May to outline the terms upon which trade will resume.
Hundreds of U.S. cattle producers were in Washington March 27-31 for NCBA’s Spring Legislative Conference, and many of their discussions with lawmakers focused on the importance of resolving trade issues with China. In the weeks that followed, 28 members of the House Beef Caucus and 21 senators sent a letter to President Bush asking that he push for the “fair treatment of America’s beef and beef products in the Chinese market.”
Senior White House officials say the beef issue will most likely be discussed at the Bush-Hu meeting April 20. Earlier this month, President Bush said he will press President Hu to use fairer trade practices and mentioned U.S. beef as one of the areas of concern. "We believe that we grow pretty good crops and grow good beef,” the President said. “Perhaps it's in their interest to open up their markets to our agricultural products."
“In 2003, China was one of our top ten markets selling over 12,000 metric tons of beef valued at over $28 million,” says Doud. “But what’s important to U.S. cattle producers is the huge potential that markets holds. With around 1.4 billion folks in China, including about 300 million middle class consumers, there is no other place on earth that holds the potential that China does for our business."