U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that China intends to re-open the Chinese market to United States pork and live swine, consistent with science-based international standards. The announcement was made at the conclusion of meetings with Chinese officials at the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.

Vilsack said he expects an announcement on lifting the ban “very soon.” Vilsack later added that an announcement may come in conjunction with President Obama’s upcoming trip to China- the world’s largest producer and consumer of pork. China blocked shipments from 49 U.S. states after the outbreak of H1N1 that began last April.

Concern about the H1N1 virus has reduced U.S. exports to major markets including China, resulting in losses among U.S. pork producers.

“This is good news for U.S. pork producers, who have been suffering through an economic crisis for the past two years,” said Don Butler, National Pork Producers Council president . “China is, by far, the largest potential money-making opportunity for the U.S. pork industry. A Chinese market reasonably open to U.S. pork would single-handedly put a huge dent in the U.S.-China trade imbalance,” Butler

The greater China/Hong Kong region was the No. 2 market for U.S. pork in 2008, purchasing 880.9 million pounds valued at $689.4 million, an increase of 155 percent in value over 2007, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. For the first six months of 2009, the China/Hong Kong region imported 267.7 million pounds of U.S. pork.

"China's intent to remove its H1N1-related ban on U.S. pork marks an important step forward in cooperation between the countries on agriculture issues." said Vilsack. "Two-way trade of agricultural, fish, and forest products between the U.S. and China has grown in recent years to over $21 billion per year, opening increasingly important connections that can benefit farmers, ranchers and consumers in both countries,"

"I look forward to China resuming imports of U.S. pork products and live swine," said Kirk. "Based on our discussions, we expect China to base its opening on science and internationally agreed standards." In 2008, China was the U.S. pork industry's fastest growing market.

In discussions with Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai, Vilsack stressed the need for China to remove all restrictions on trade in pork products related to the H1N1 virus, given clear guidance from international bodies like the World Organization for Animal Health, World Health Organization, and Food and Agriculture Organization, that there is no risk to humans from consuming properly prepared pork and pork products.

In his first visit to China as Agriculture Secretary, Vilsack took part in the meeting of the JCCT, a bilateral forum for resolving trade issues, co-chaired by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Leading the delegation for China was Vice Premier Wang Qishan.

Source: USDA News, USMEF