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Advancements made with China on biotech, beef

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Approximately one month following the Presidential Summit between President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping at their meeting in Mar-a-Lago, Fla., new advancements have been made regarding stalled biotechnology approvals as well as on beef trade and China’s cooked poultry shipments to the U.S.

Initial commitments under the 100-day plan and objectives for next steps included a commitment that China’s National Biosafety Committee (NBC) would hold a meeting by the end of May 2017 to conduct science-based evaluations of all eight pending U.S. biotech product applications to assess the safety of the products for their intended use. No additional information unrelated to safety assessments for intended use is to be requested of the applicants.

According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), for any product that does not pass the safety evaluation at the NBC meeting in May, NBC is to operate with transparency by providing in writing to the applicants a complete list of requested‎ information necessary to finalize the safety assessment for the products’ intended use, along with an explanation of how the requested information would be relevant to the safety of the products’ intended use.

NBC will then hold meetings as frequently and as soon as possible after an application is resubmitted in order to finalize reviews of remaining applications without undue delay. For the products that pass the NBC safety evaluations, China is to grant certificates within 20 working days in accordance with Administrative License Law of the People’s Republic of China.

Joseph Damond, executive vice president for international affairs at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), welcomed the news of the initial results of the action plan. “The agreement marks an important first step in the 100-day plan and towards broader engagement through the newly formed U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue,” he said.

However, as was the case with previous announcements to do with China, there was some hesitation about what will actually change. “Considering the history of this issue, the ultimate test of success will be for China to follow its process and quickly approve the eight pending biotechnology applications and establish a synchronized, timely and predictable process going forward,” Damond explained. “BIO will continue to engage through this process to monitor the implementation of the agreement.”

The U.S. and China also agreed to “resolve outstanding issues for the import of China-origin cooked poultry to the United States as soon as possible, and after reaching consensus, the United States is to publish a proposed rule by July 16, 2017, at the latest, with the United States realizing China poultry exports as soon as possible,” DOC reported.

The announcement focuses on U.S. imports of Chinese poultry, but it does not make any note of the fact that U.S. poultry producers have been shut out of China’s market.

At the top of the initial list of actions published by DOC was to resume beef trade with China no later than July 16, 2017, after one more round of technical consultations between the two countries.

Reopening China’s beef market is an issue Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad — Trump’s nominee for ambassador to China — has also consistently brought up. During his nomination hearing, he said the Chinese market has been unnecessarily closed for 13 years after the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was identified on U.S. soil. He has said he wants to be able to serve American beef at the embassy and at the ambassador’s residence.

“The Administration has shown great leadership in working with the Chinese government and industry to help finalize market access for U.S. beef,” North American Meat Institute president and chief executive officer Barry Carpenter said. “The beef deal is a significant, concrete accomplishment resulting from the 100-day plan established by President Trump and President Xi at their summit. We are thankful for the hard work on the issue by both leaders.”

The Chinese market is estimated to be worth $2.6 billion to the U.S. beef industry. Asian countries already make up some of the largest markets for U.S. beef, with Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan making up four of the top six export markets, accounting for $3.6 billion in value in 2016.

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