DENVER – Late last week, Canada announced it had reached an agreement to resume beef exports to China. The announcement that mainland China will reopen to Canadian beef is a significant development, as both the U.S. and Canada have been shut out of this market for several years due to lingering bovine spongiform encephalopathy (B.S.E.)-related trade restrictions.

Philip Seng, U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.) president and chief executive officer, said the agreement will likely provide Canada with an important “head start” in re-establishing sales channels in China. However, the agreement could provide a long-term benefit to the U.S. beef industry by serving as the prototype for a similar agreement between the U.S. and China.

“I think it’s significant,” he said. “Number one, it shows China is willing to move on opening the market. Unfortunately, it was Canada that got in there first rather than the United Sates. From what I understand from my friends in Canada, all of the details have not been completed yet because this came together so quickly, but they’re moving in the right direction. This portends strongly for us in the U.S. on how we’re going to deal with China because this will be the prototype of how we go forward in our own case in trying to gain access to China. We understand it is a three-stage process very comparable with what they had with Hong Kong. They have already set triggers within this to go to the next phases and ultimately I think it will be for total access for the Canadian product.”

Mr. Seng added a formal agreement between Canada and China can also work to the U.S. beef industry’s advantage. He’s hopeful for a similar agreement soon that will allow for direct U.S. beef exports to China

“I think it’s very encouraging that the U.S. addresses China and continues to do this,” he continues. “We have to be very persistent in our efforts. They have multiple questions; there were 22 questions the Chinese had initially asked that we need to act on. Through this process, some of them have been obviated given that fact they have gone through this three-step process. I think the U.S.M.E.F. and our negotiators will be looking very closely at this Canadian agreement to see what provisions we can work with in order to get that same access.”