China has announced a partial removal of the ban on U.S. beef exports, meaning that American beef companies can begin shipping products to China for the first time since a BSE outbreak in 2003. Bloomberg news reports that the ban on imports of U.S. bone-in beef and boneless beef for livestock under 30 months has been removed, with conditions, effective immediately, according to a statement on Thursday from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. Imports must follow requirements under China’s traceability, inspection and quarantine systems.

Additionally, China removed a ban on similar beef products from Canada

Philip M. Seng, president and CEO, U.S. Meat Export Federation, said in a statement, “While this is an important first step in the process of resuming beef exports to China, USMEF understands that China must still negotiate with USDA 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.”

Following the announcement, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement: “"I welcome the announcement from China's Ministry of Agriculture that it has lifted its ban on U.S. beef following a recently concluded review of the U.S. supply system. This announcement is a critical first step to restore market access for U.S. beef and beef products. We look forward to prompt engagement by the relevant authorities for further technical discussions on the specific conditions that will allow trade to resume. True access to China's beef market—consistent with science-based, international standards for trade—remains a top priority for the United States. 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."

The USDA notes that, following the discovery of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in December 2003, U.S. beef and beef product exports fell. Since 2003, USDA has led a multi-agency, full-court press, dedicating significant resources to restore foreign market access for U.S. beef. As a result, U.S. beef shipments had regained pre-BSE volumes by 2011 and even reached record values by 2014. Another central element of the U.S. strategy to maintain and expand foreign market access is insistence on policies that are based on the guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Since January 2015, USDA has gained additional market access for U.S. beef in 16 countries, including: Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Guatemala, Iraq, Lebanon, Macau, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Saint Lucia, Singapore, South Africa, Ukraine, Vietnam and Brazil.

The past seven years have represented the strongest period in history for American agricultural exports, with international sales of U.S. farm and food products surpassing $1 trillion between fiscal years 2009 and the present, the USDA states.

The North American Meat Institute  issued a statement welcoming the news, adding that the announcement is the first step toward resuming beef trade with China, with further technical discussions by USDA and USTR still needed on the specific conditions that will allow trade to resume.

“Reopening the Chinese market has been a top priority for Meat Institute members for more than a decade,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “It is a market with a high demand for beef and our members are prepared to offer the highest quality beef in the world.”

The Meat Institute will continue to work closely with USDA and USTR to reopen the market and push for science-based trade standards around the world.

“USDA and USTR have led the way in restoring market access for U.S. beef in recent years, and we are proud to partner in those efforts,” said Carpenter. “Science based free trade has numerous benefits for the U.S., and reopening the Chinese market as well as TPP deal are great examples of the opportunities in the Pacific region.”

Source: USDA, NAMI, USMEF, Bloomberg News