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US regains access for beef exports to huge Chinese market

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China is ready to start importing US beef for the first time in 14 years, following last month's trade talks between president Donald Trump and Chinese premier Xi Jinping at Trump's Florida beach resort.

The Chinese authorities imposed an import ban on US beef in 2003, following a case of BSE in Washington State, although this was lifted last year.

A Trump campaign pledge was to overturn unfair trade barriers at the same time as reducing the US burgeoning trade deficit with China.

The deal, which should start no later than mid-July, is subject to further technical talks on import standards, would allow US beef and card payment services access to the Chinese market.

In return, the US has agreed to open up to imports of cooked chicken products from China.

Final hurdle

China's appetite for beef has increased massively in recent years, with its imports increasing from 860,000 tonnes in 2012 to an estimated 950,000 tonnes this year, making it one of the top buyers of the commodity, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Historically, Brazil has been China's major supplier, with a market share of more than 30%, followed by Uruguay and Australia.

How quickly the US can gear itself up for a slice of this trade depends on negotiations over import standards.

China has traditionally rejected beef reared using hormones and growth promoters, a stance it shares with the EU.

Although there are limited supplies of US hormone-free beef available, there would be limited scope for the US to supply China with beef at any volume without a change in attitude.

Industry applause

The US Meat Exporters Forum welcomed the high level agreement to allow US beef to re-enter the Chinese market .

"USMEF and its members greatly appreciate the efforts of the Trump administration and officials at USDA and USTR that made today's announcement possible."

By Jamie Day

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