Baucus urges Chinese to accept Montana beef

by Bryan Salvage
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BEIJING, CHINA –Top Chinese officials have been urged by Montana's senior US Senator Max Baucus to comply with international rules and open the Chinese market to US beef during meetings in Beijing Oct. 12 and 13. Baucus met with Vice President Xi Jingping, Vice Premier Wang Qishan and other top Chinese officials to press China to work with the US to reach an agreement ending restrictions on American beef as soon as possible.

Xi Jingping is second in line to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Wang Qishan is in charge of economic, energy and financial affairs in China.

Baucus also met with Commerce Minister Chen Deming, who is responsible for international trade policy in China. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, with sole jurisdiction over international trade in the US Senate, Baucus has been fighting to open China and all markets for Montana ranchers, farmers and exporters.

Baucus also pressed Chinese leaders, including Vice Governor of the People's Bank of China Yi Gang, to address other issues hurting the competitiveness of Montana exporters -- including China's undervaluation of its currency and ineffective protection and enforcement of US intellectual property rights, including the piracy of American software.

Yi Gang is responsible for setting China's currency policy and is directly responsible for managing the exchange rate.

Baucus also met with China's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, in Beijing to discuss ways to improve economic cooperation between China and Montana. Baucus and Yang Jiechi discussed the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting Baucus fought to bring to Big Sky in May 2011, along with ways to increase Chinese tourism to the Montana. The APEC meeting will bring cabinet-level representatives from 21 countries, along with hundreds of other officials, to Big Sky to discuss ways to deepen the trade and economic relationships of APEC's members.

The Asia-Pacific region, including China, encompasses some of Montana's most important trading partners, and Montana's exports to APEC countries nearly tripled over the last decade.

In September, Baucus brought the Chinese Ambassador to the US, Zhang Yesui, and other ambassadors from around the world to Big Sky to kick off the Montana host committee for APEC.

During the ambassadors' visit to Montana, Baucus hosted a tour of a Montana ranch and meetings with Montana ag producers to promote Montana beef. As a result, the Chinese Ambassador announced at Baucus' Economic Development Summit in Butte that he will direct his embassy to explore ways to increase China's purchases of Montana wheat and beef.

American beef has been certified safe by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which is the internationally recognized standard-setting body for animal food products. China's current restrictions effectively ban the importation of American beef. If China re-opened its market, the US beef industry estimates that American beef exports would reach $200 million or more in the first year, which would make China one of the top-five markets for American beef.
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