Posted August 16, 2013

Politico reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) “is moving closer to opening the U.S. market to Chinese-processed chicken by sending two of its senior food safety officials to Beijing next week” for a meeting on the subject. 

According to the Politico article, available here, this meeting “is a culmination of seven years of negotiations” and could have an impact in other areas of trade with China.  Al Almanza, administrator of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service(FSIS), and Dan Englejohn, FSIS deputy assistant administrator, will represent USDA in Beijing.  In March, USDA officials inspected Chinese poultry plants and prepared a report, which was sent to China for review.  The report is expected to be favorable and “could pave the way for a handful of Chinese plants to be certified to process U.S. chicken.”  The officials are also expected to discuss the “eventual U.S. import of poultry raised in China.”

The U.S. and China have disagreed over poultry trade for several years.  The most recent development involved a World Trade Organization ruling in favor of the U.S. over China’s anti-dumping and countervailing duty measures restricting U.S. poultry exports, which was discussed in a previous post on this blog here.

The U.S. beef industry hopes this agricultural trade progress will help facilitate progress on other areas including beef exports to China.  China banned U.S. beef imports in 2003 in response to the discovery of mad cow disease in the U.S.  Most other “beef-importing countries have lifted restrictions on U.S. beef, but the Chinese market remains closed as the country’s demand for imports has risen.”

Some opposed to processing chicken in China are concerned about recent bird flu outbreaks.  As of Aug. 11, “135 people in China have contracted bird flu this year and 44 of them have died according to the World Health Organization.”  USDA officials, however, “have said the agency is only considering allowing imports of chicken that has been thoroughly cooked, which would kill any bird flu virus.”