As negotiations remain stalled between the U.S. and China, U.S. Department of Agriculture trade undersecretary Ted McKinney isn’t prepared to say all hope is lost between the two nations.
While testifying before House Agriculture Committee members Tuesday, he reiterated that both countries need each other. “No doubt, the U.S. is very important to China,” he said.
He and U.S. chief agricultural trade negotiator Gregg Doud participated in 21 different negotiating sessions with China. Although they didn’t reach a conclusion, he remains hopeful that President Donald Trump and China's President Jingping Xi could meet on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 meeting later this month during the current “cooling off period.”
McKinney explained that the U.S. was not seeking actions or promises from China that were out of line. He said he and Doud had made “great progress” in discussions with China, but when China came to the point of backsliding, it became obvious that the momentum had stopped.
Doud added that although U.S. soybean producers previously saw impressive exports to China, other markets have been shut out due to non-tariff or tariff inequality. For instance, poultry has been shut out since 2015 due to highly pathogenic avian influenza, while only a “thimble full of beef” is allowed in, and ractopamine restrictions also limit imports of U.S. pork.
China is also the only country in the world that requires that it be sent the seed before it approves a biotechnological trait for import so the country can cultivate the trait before it is approved, Doud said.
Meanwhile, speaking at a Global Business Dialogue event in Washington, D.C., on the same day, National Pork Producers Council vice president and counsel of global government affairs Nick Giordano reiterated the importance of China to U.S. pork producers.
"We have always known that China holds more potential than any market in the world for increased U.S. pork sales, but today, because of African swine fever, that potential is off the charts, offering the single greatest sales opportunity in our industry's history," Giordano said. "China needs reliable suppliers of pork now and, likely, well into the future. The question U.S. hog farmers are asking: 'Will we get the main course, or will we get the crumbs off the table?'"
Last year, Mexico was the industry's largest pork market by volume, and China was number three, although punitive tariffs imposed by those two countries have cost U.S. pork producers $2.5 billion over the last year.
"U.S. pork production costs are among the lowest in the world, with safety and quality that are second to none. But for the retaliatory duties, the United States would be in a perfect position to take advantage of this massive import surge in the world's largest pork-consuming nation and single-handedly put a huge dent in the U.S. trade imbalance with China," Giordano said.
Instead, Chinese pork buyers are reaching out to Europe, Canada and Brazil for supplies. "What should have been a time of enormous prosperity and growth for U.S. pork producers and their suppliers will instead fuel jobs, profits and rural development for our competitors," he noted.
"U.S. hog farmers understand the challenges faced by this Administration in recalibrating U.S. trade policy toward China. The issues are myriad and complex. Moreover, hog farmers appreciate the farmer aid packages that the Administration has put forward," Giordano continued. "However, the China pork tariff needs to be lifted."