By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media; and Max Fisher, Director of Economics and Government Affairs
The U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) talks that took place Thanksgiving week failed to make progress in promoting a more synchronous approach to crop biotech regulatory approvals, or to address the backlog in biotech traits awaiting approval by Chinese regulatory authorities.
In a statement on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he was disappointed that further progress was not made on agricultural biotechnology issues during the talks. “Lack of progress on biotech issues will continue to add years to the process of commercializing them, will slow innovation and set back global efforts to address food security and climate change,” he said.
China has not fully implemented commitments on agricultural biotechnology that it made to the United States which date back as far as September 2015. The NGFA supported a letter sent by 113 members of the House urging President Obama to pursue a more normalized trading relationship with China, a significant trading partner for U.S. agriculture, as well as supporting approvals of biotech enhanced products.
Vilsack added that the United States will be monitoring the meeting of China’s National Biosafety Committee scheduled to take place in December, “and expects that the remaining eight biotech traits will be reviewed based on science and risk, and accordingly approved.”
Meanwhile, on Nov. 21, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report, Cultivating Opportunity: The Benefits of Increased U.S.-China Agricultural Trade, which reveals that reducing or eliminating relevant tariffs and other behind-the-border barriers between the United States and China would result in U.S. agricultural export gains of $17.6 billion or 40 percent over a 10-year period.
The chamber hosted a release event for the report featuring a panel of industry experts who discussed the report’s findings and the future of the U.S.-China agricultural trade relationship. Joe Glauber, panelist and former chief economist at USDA, said: “China will continue to be the main driver for agricultural trade over the next 10 years.”
USDA is projecting China’s soybean use will increase 21 percent over 10 years and corn use will increase 18 percent over the same time span.
The Chamber report lays out the trade irritants that have kept U.S.-China agricultural commerce from reaching its potential. In conclusion, the report noted that to expand trade, the two countries will need to resolve complex tariff rates, biotechnology-approval processes, food safety requirements, and animal health and disease-prevention policies.
The panelists agreed that communication is essential for trade relations to improve and said they hoped the United States would continue to participate in the JCCT, which is the primary forum used by both governments to raise industry-specific concerns and discuss cross-cutting issues.