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USDEC trip explores dairy trade opportunities in China

Cooperation key to maximizing market potential.

China's increased demand for imported milk and other dairy products is providing a market opportunity for the U.S., Tom Vilsack, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), reported. In fact, he pointed out that the U.S. shipped $384 million worth of dairy products to China in 2016, making it the industry's number-three single-country export market.

Final figures for 2017 have yet to be reported, but Vilsack said U.S. dairy export value to China through November was up more than 50% compared to the previous year, while volume rose more than 20%.

“With Chinese demand for imported milk and other dairy products increasing, the potential for U.S. exports is at an all-time high, and just recently, it was reported that China's economy grew at 6.9% in 2017, overshooting the government's original full-year target of 6.5%,” he said.

Aiming to build on the momentum, Vilsack said USDEC has hit the ground running in 2018 with a productive mid-January trip to Beijing, China.

"We are trying to create some level of certainty in a very uncertain world for the industry," USDEC senior vice president Jaime Castaneda said. "This is why we visited China last week to meet with government and industry officials."

Vilsack said continued cooperation will be key to maximizing the market, adding that the recent meetings with key officials are a great start to 2018. “We are confident that if we remain focused in our quest to lower tariffs and other trade barriers, then the Chinese market has the potential to provide some certainty in these uncertain times,” he said.

In 2017, a memorandum of understanding laying out dairy facility registration protocols was signed between the China and the U.S. Then, in November, China unilaterally lowered its cheese tariffs from 12% to 8%.

Vilsack said the goal for the most recent trip was to seize this momentum and further facilitate trade avenues to this priority market.

While in Beijing, USDEC met with U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, as well as officials from China's Ministry of Commerce, Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Foodstuffs & Native Produce, Foreign Agriculture Service and others.

“Our key discussion priorities included lingering issues around the established memorandum of understanding and updating lists as part of the dairy plant registrations, expanding industry partnerships to help pave the way for additional tariff reductions, addressing the importance of progress on a whey permeate standard and touching on our ongoing concerns with GIs (geographical indications),” Vilsack said, adding that the potential for job-creating U.S. exports to China is at an all-time high.

Nonetheless, he said continued cooperation will be key to maximizing this market.

“With this trip, we believe 2018 is off to a great start,” Vilsack said.

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