US beef heads back to China

US beef heads back to China

Trade relations improve in line with 100-day action plan

Final details have been put in place to allow the US to begin beef exports to China for the first time since 2003, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said on Monday (US time).

Beef and beef products exported to China must be derived from cattle that can be traceable to the birth farm in the US, according to a separate statement posted by the USDA on Monday.

Also, US beef shipments to China must come from cattle less than 30 months of age. Beef products exported to China should not contain growth-promoting substances, feed additives and other chemical compounds, according to the USDA. 

As part of the China-US 100-day plan, "this final beef agreement shows positive signals of the bilateral trade relationship," Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The bilateral trade relationship is complicated, Bai noted, adding that it is not easy to resolve all the problems under the plan. But the beef deal will be a good template for other agreements under the 100-day plan, he said.

During a meeting in the US state of Florida in April, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump agreed to initiate a 100-day plan for economic cooperation, covering agriculture, financial services, investment and the energy sector, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency on May 12.

Under the plan, China will allow imports of US beef and the US will import poultry from China, said the report. The US welcomes China and other partners to import liquefied natural gas and China will allow wholly foreign-owned financial service companies to provide credit ratings in China.

Most of the agreements under the plan are expected to be implemented by July 16, said the report.

In 2003, China banned beef imports from the US to prevent the spread of mad cow disease. Before the ban took effect, about 70 percent of China's imported beef came from the US.

"China increased beef imports in recent years due to growing demand as well as to protect the environment, because cattle breeding puts pressure on the grass and soil in some places," said Bai.

China's beef imports reached $2.5 billion in 2016, compared with $275 million in 2012, according to the USDA data.

Bilateral agricultural trade has been stable, and since 2001, the value of such trade has grown by an average of 15 percent annually, said a report released by China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on May 25.

As for the trade deficit, China runs "a surplus in merchandise trade but a deficit in services trade with the US," Li Chang'an, a professor at the Department of Public Economics at the University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

To achieve a win-win outcome, China and the US should strive to narrow the deficit and strengthen economic cooperation, said Li, adding that the US should consider relaxing restrictions on high-technology exports to China.

China has become an important overseas market for many products from the US, especially bulk agricultural products and advanced manufactured products, according to the MOFCOM report.

The country will increase imports from the US in sectors including agricultural products, energy and high-technology equipment, said the MOFCOM.

Bilateral trade rose 21.1 percent year-on-year in the first five months to 1.51 trillion yuan ($222.18 billion), data from the General Administration of Customs of China showed.

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