While in China, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will participate in the meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in Hangzhou on Thursday. He will be joined by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. The JCCT serves as an important forum for Cabinet-level officials from both countries to resolve trade concerns and enhance economic opportunities and cooperation in several areas, including agriculture. Vilsack met with his counterparts in Beijing for bilateral discussions before arriving in Hangzhou. Prior to tomorrow’s JCCT, Vilsack will meet with U.S. government officials, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, and several Ministers, to discuss what they hope to achieve during the meeting.
The United States and China are the largest agricultural producers and the world looks to our two countries for leadership in the trade arena. Since China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, it has become the United States’ fourth largest market for agricultural exports and U.S. agricultural exports have reached more than $13 billion. We can attribute much of this dramatic growth to the market liberalization and adoption of standard rules that accompanied China’s accession to the WTO.
With market opportunities this large and two-way trade at more than $400 billion last year, we are bound to experience issues that require coordination. The JCCT provides a forum for the United States and China to discuss and resolve mutual trade concerns. As agricultural trade between our two countries grows, it is imperative that we have a transparent regulatory framework in place that both ensures food safety and prevents needless trade disputes.
One current issue that will be addressed during the JCCT are China’s H1N1-related restrictions on U.S. pork products, despite repeated guidance from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that the H1N1 Influenza A virus is not transmitted by food. The USDA has fully engaged its trading partners to remind them that these international organizations have indicated that people cannot get the flu from eating pork or pork products. Other significant issues affecting trade with China-avian influenza and pathogen standards for meat and poultry products- will also be discussed at the JCCT.