Ag Policy Blog

China Balks at U.S. Biotechnology Proposals at Trade Forum

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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A final trade meeting under the Obama administration under the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade failed to make effective headway on issues such as biotechnology.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman both issued statements over the holiday weekend expressing disappointment over the lack of progress in the talks at the meeting, known as the JCCT.

"Although China has made some progress, it has not fully implemented commitments on agricultural biotechnology that it made to the United States which date back as far as September 2015," Vilsack said. "Those commitments still stand and the United States expects their full implementation."

Reflecting how little was accomplished in this area, Vilsack added that the U.S. had asked China to clarify how the country will approve biotech traits "in a predictable, transparent, and scientific manner." The U.S. also pushed to work on a plan to synchronize approval of biotech traits, another effort Vilsack has tried to get China to agree to do.

Vilsack said the U.S. will be watching China's National Biosafety Committee meeting planned in December to address eight biotech traits based on science and risk. Ideally, those traits should be approved, Vilsack stated.

"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. The United States expects that China will fully implement its prior commitments and will work collaboratively with us to address these global challenges in the future."

Prior to the JCCT, 37 senators wrote President Barack Obama encouraging him to keep pushing on China on biotechnology approvals.

Froman, in his statement, said the meeting did lead to progress on a number of trade issues between the two countries, but he added that “challenging issues in our bilateral economic relationship remain." Froman added, “What we know is that American workers and businesses are willing to compete with their counterparts in China, but expect to do so on a level playing field.”

On some other topics at the JCCT, the U.S. and China agreed to better work together on avian influenza to ensure trade recognizes zones free of highly pathogenic and low pathogenic strains. The two countries will recognize World Trade Organization standards for minimizing trade disruptions.

While the U.S. has pushed a WTO case against China for farm subsidies, the U.S. statement noted it "welcomes China's confirmation" that China is working to deal with U.S. concerns over subsidies for items such as farm machinery.

The U.S. Trade Representative's Office also cited that China had made some "important and welcome clarifications" to enforcement of ant-monopoly laws.

Regarding steel, the U.S. and China will agree to help create a global forum on steel excess capacity and hold further discussions leading up to the next G20 summit next June. Steel was topic that President-elect Donald Trump raised over China during the presidential campaign, though it also was reported that Trump's company bought imported Chinese steel for some of the company's construction projects.

Food safety was also a focus and included a separate event co-sponsored by business groups. The topics included working on cooperation in food-safety goals.

A copy of the statements a link to various topics discussed can be found at https://ustr.gov/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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