July 12, 2005 (ENS): The United States and
China have agreed to increase bilateral cooperation
on animal and plant health and food safety, Agriculture
Secretary Mike Johanns said Monday on his first visit
to China since he took over as head of the agency in
Johanns took part in the meeting of the U.S.-China
Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, a bilateral
forum for resolving trade issues, which was also attended
by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and Commerce
Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
Leading the delegation for China was Vice Premier Wu
"We will establish a vehicle to address the sanitary,
phytosanitary and food safety issues that have hindered
U.S. agriculture's access to this important market,"
Johanns and Minister Li Changjiang of China's General
Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and
Quarantine reached an agreement on a memorandum of understanding
(MOU) to improve bilateral cooperation on animal and
plant health and food safety.
"With this MOU, we will establish a vehicle to
address the sanitary, phytosanitary and food safety
issues that have hindered U.S. agriculture's access
to this important market," said Johanns.
The MOU will establish a forum to seek resolution of
bilateral technical food safety issues and promote scientific
exchange to resolve technical barriers to trade in products
such as meat, poultry and eggs.
The agreement provides for the exchanges of information
on laws; regulations and standards; inspection and quarantine
procedures; methodology and technology; pests and disease;
toxic and harmful residues; food certification and establishment
Johanns urged China to lift its ban on imports of U.S.
beef, saying the country should adhere to an internationally
recognized science based system of beef testing.
In response, Johanns announced, Chinese officials said
they would send a technical team to the United States
in October. In the meantime, they agreed to work with
USDA officials to provide more information on the timeline
and process for reopening their market to U.S. beef.
China and many other countries closed their borders
to U.S. beef after the December 2003 discovery of a
dairy cow in Washington state that was infected with
mad cow disease. A second cow, a Texas beef animal,
was found to have the fatal brain wasting disease last
U.S. Agriculture officials say meat from the Texas
animal did not enter the U.S. food supply.
Johanns also said China now has approved for use in
the country a new genetically engineered variety of
maize, or corn, Monsanto's NK603, which is modified
to tolerate Monsanto's herbicide Roundup.
This brings to eight the number of varieties of genetically
engineered maize approved by China, along with two varieties
of cotton, seven varieties of canola and one variety
of soybean, the USDA said.
The USDA's policy is to open trade markets around the
world for genetically modified U.S. crops, regardless
of critics who claim that genetically modified crops
are not sufficiently tested and may give rise to allergic
reactions in sensitive people. Organic farmers are concerned
that windblown pollen from nearby biotech crops will
contaminate their fields.
Johanns said his agency is willing to work with China
to promote a regulatory system to expedite future approvals.
"Cooperation is essential in any trading relationship,"
said Johanns. "A great example of our cooperative
efforts is in the area of biotechnology where we are
working together on the development and use of agricultural
biotechnology that benefits farmers and consumers alike.
U.S. corn farmers will welcome the long awaited Chinese
approval of Roundup Ready corn," he said.
"Last year, U.S. farmers and ranchers sold over
$6 billion in agriculture products to China, making
it our 5th largest export market," said Johanns.
"These agreements with the Chinese today will help
to further expand our trade opportunities with one of
American agriculture's top trading partners to build
on our current trade success."
Today, the U.S. officials are in Dalian, China, at
a meeting with their counterparts in World Trade Organization
(WTO) member countries.
The WTO Informal Ministerial Meeting of more than 300
delegates is being held in preparation for the upcoming
world trade negotiations slated for December 13 to 18
in Hong Kong.
At Dalian ministers are discussing the five core areas
of the conference - agriculture, non-agricultural market
access, development, services and rules.
WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi warned the
heads of delegations to the WTO on Friday that the the
Doha Round of negotiations "are in trouble."
"Everyone has a generalized commitment to progress,
but when it comes to the specifics, the familiar defensive
positions take over," the WTO leader said.
While noting that "some progress" has been
made in resolving agricultural issues, " this has
not yet sufficiently galvanized the negotiations on
the most fundamental element of the market access package,
the tiered formula for tariff cuts," Dr. Panitchpakdi
Progress in resolving Non-Agricultural Market Access
issues is constrained by the lack of progress in agriculture,
"The crisis that threatens is all the more menacing
because it is not a crisis of dramatic divergences or
headline-grabbing conflict - it is a crisis of immobility,"
said Panitchpakdi. "I think there is still a slender
chance of averting it, but every hour must be made to
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All Rights