China’s Ministry of Agriculture & General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection & Quarantine announced today that China’s ban on imports of U.S. beef has been lifted. The ban on bone-in and boneless beef from cattle under 30 months old from the U.S. was removed effective immediately, a statement released by the ministry said.
The ban was initially enacted in 2003 after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was found in Washington state. China announced in 2006 that it would allow some boneless beef products, but imports were never fully resumed.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack welcomed the announcement, which he said follows a recently concluded review of the U.S. supply system by the ministry.
“This announcement is a critical first step to restore market access for U.S. beef and beef products," he said. "We look forward to prompt engagement by the relevant authorities for further technical discussions on the specific conditions that will allow trade to resume.”
The Chinese ministry said authorities will formulate rules on traceability and quarantine for the specified beef products.
In reaction to the news, Philip Seng, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), said, “While this is an important first step in the process of resuming beef exports to China, USMEF understands that China must still negotiate with (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) the conditions that will apply to U.S. beef exports entering this market.”
USMEF looks forward to learning more details about the remaining steps necessary for the market to officially open and for U.S. suppliers to begin shipping product, Seng added.
Vilsack said true access to China's beef market — consistent with science-based, international standards for trade — remains a top priority for the U.S.
“The United States produces the highest-quality beef in the world, and China's 1.3 billion consumers are an important market for U.S. producers. The Obama Administration and USDA will continue to press trading partners to eliminate unfair barriers to trade that hamper American farmers and ranchers," he added.
China's Premier Li Keqiang, speaking Sept. 22 at a dinner party organized by the Economic Club of New York, hinted that the ban may soon be lifted.
He said the U.S. and China need to further open up to each other in both trade and mutual investment, adding that China is sincere in further opening up its market.
“We have completed the quarantine procedures for the import of U.S. beef, and we will soon have imports of beef from the United States,” Li said. “China is a large producer of agricultural products and animal husbandry. The U.S. also has very good beef. Why should we deny Chinese customers more choices?”
In 2003, China's imports of beef totaled $15 million (12,000 tons), including $10 million from the U.S. China's imports in recent years have risen dramatically, reaching a record $2.3 billion in 2015. USDA projects that China will surpass Japan as the second-largest beef importer (after the U.S.), with imports estimated at 825,000 tons in 2016. USDA noted that rapidly rising demand for beef has been fueled by middle-class growth and has made China the fastest-growing beef market in the world.