China's Re-opening to U.S. Beef Not Imminent, USMEF Says

Trade talks with China continue though the market has not reopened to U.S. beef following 2003 BSE case

Over the past 18 to 24 months, China has become the fastest-growing market in the world for imported beef, but the U.S. hasn't seen a cut of the estimated 400% growth in Chinese beef imports between 2012 and 2013.

That growth, with an estimated value of $1.33 billion, is likely to be repeated. Through August, China's 2014 imports are 17% ahead of last year's pace at $961 million, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Related: China Looks to Import More Beef in Next Five Years

China is one of the few markets that never reopened to U.S. beef following the December 2003 BSE case. China's major beef suppliers are Australia, Uruguay and New Zealand, with Argentina and Canada also serving the market.

USMEF senior vice president for trade access Thad Lively says talks are continuing on Chinese market access despite its 11-year absence.

"There have been some meetings recently between the two governments and there are going to be some more opportunities between now and the end of the year," Lively said. "We always look at those kinds of meetings as places where we could possibly see some movement."

Related: Chinese Demand Will Continue to Drive Global Beef Industry

Lively added, however, that though he is encouraged by recent developments, including a two-week technical review conducted this summer by officials from China, this is a difficult trade issue that often requires a long time to resolve.

"This is never a fast process, it's never a simple process," he said. "There's no reason to expect China to open its door today or tomorrow, but there is work being done."

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