Regaining access for U.S. beef in China dominated a trade panel discussion at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Cattle Marketing and International Trade Committee meeting, held July 17 as part of the 2015 Cattle Industry Summer Conference. China, which has potential to be a leading market for U.S. beef, has been closed since the 2003 BSE case.
A three-person International Trade Panel moderated by Committee Chairman Ed Greiman and Vice Chairman Joe Kovanda discussed the steps needed to meet China’s import requirements. Panelists were Thad Lively, USMEF senior vice president for trade access; Mark Gustafson, director of the international beef sales division for JBS and a member of the USMEF Executive Committee; and Brett Stuart, global market specialist for CattleFax and co-founder of Global Agritrends.
“What everybody involved with U.S. beef really wants to know is if we can meet China’s requirements and, assuming we can, how long will it take us to get there?” Greiman, an Iowa beef producer and NCBA director, said. “A lot of people here speak in general terms about China, because nobody really knows what China wants. I think it’s important to have these discussions as often as possible so we can learn and then we can act.”
“China is certainly a priority, and you can hear that simply by listening to the conversations that are taking place at this conference,” said Lively, who noted that competition for market share in China is intense and countries that currently have access are gaining an advantage over the U.S. as weeks and months go by.
Lively said there is a clear need for the U.S. government to meet with China and negotiate terms that will open the market to U.S. beef. Given the importance of this issue to the beef industry, he was encouraged that the committee and other producers attending the conference were putting a heavy emphasis on trade.
Gustafson answered questions about how U.S. meat companies handle markets that only want to purchase specific cuts of beef. He explained that the business of selling U.S. beef in international markets is similar to selling any product – competition helps bolster prices, while lack of competition brings those prices down. From this standpoint, adding China to the mix of active markets would boost the price commanded for U.S. beef in other Asian destinations and thus make a positive contribution to cattle prices here at home.
Each panelist answered specific questions from producers about growth in international markets, tariffs and other trade barriers that could threaten that growth and the advantages of pending trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).
Greiman noted that NCBA members continue their strong support of international trade, which adds value to each head of cattle sold. With the recent passage of trade promotion authority, NCBA supports finalization and passage of the TPP and other pending free trade agreements, he added.