BEIJING, China, 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 January.
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 Yi.
"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 said.
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 registration.
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 month.
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
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
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, he said.
"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 count."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All Rights Reserved.