It is my pleasure to be in China, leading USDA’s largest-ever agricultural trade mission in the cities of Chengdu and Shanghai from March 23-28.
I am joined by 39 U.S. businesses representing a wide variety of products, including fresh and frozen produce, dairy, wine, consumer-oriented products, forestry products, and more. Representatives from six state departments of agriculture are also participating, including Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese, and representatives from North Carolina, Illinois, Kansas, and South Dakota.
Our trip began in Chengdu, one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication centers in western China, and home to one of USDA’s newest agricultural trade offices. While there, the delegation attended the Tang Jiu Hui Trade Show, met with government and agriculture leaders, and visited agricultural production and processing sites.
From there, we flew to Shanghai, which is a hub of global commerce and the most populous city in the world. We were joined by Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, the chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and Darci Vetter, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. In addition to bilateral meetings with Chinese government officials and visits to some of Shanghai’s agricultural production sites, I opened the USA Pavilion at the Food Ingredients China (FIC) Trade Show on March 28.
China and the United States share a special relationship, and we embrace this opportunity to continue our in-depth dialogue on issues of mutual concern. Both countries are committed to ensuring worldwide access to safe, quality food products through improvements in production, processing, transportation and marketing to comply with international standards.
For all involved in this trade mission, the opportunities in China are huge. Bilateral trade between the United States and China in fiscal year 2011 reached an all-time high of $32.1 billion. In the past three years alone, sales of U.S. food and agricultural products to China have grown by 80 percent. Demand for traditional U.S. farm products is surging, with one quarter of all soy and one third of all cotton grown in the United States now exported to China. We have also seen growing demand for high-value goods, including consumer-oriented products.
By hosting this trade mission and others around the world, USDA is helping the American brand of agriculture continue to surge in popularity worldwide. Farm exports in fiscal year 2011 reached a record high of $137.4 billion—exceeding past highs by $22.5 billion—and supported 1.15 million jobs here at home. The agricultural trade surplus now stands at a record $42.7 billion.
The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, has aggressively worked to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade, helping to push agricultural exports to record levels in 2011. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its best periods in history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers. This trade mission will only help add to this success.