China plans to resume U.S. beef imports, which were halted in 2003, in a move to boost economic ties and further balance the trade surplus with the United States.
The two countries finalized protocol details that mean U.S. exporters can prepare for their first shipments in 14 years. It was set to take effect in mid-July.
Building on this progress, closer economic and trade ties are expected between China and the U.S., said Wei Jianguo, vice-president of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges. "Sino-U.S. trade will likely boom this year, with China's imports from the U.S. growing faster than its exports. The U.S. trade deficit with China is predicted to decrease significantly," he said.
As part of the 100-day action plan decided on by President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, the negotiations were "important steps" toward commercial shipment of U.S. beef to China for the first time since 2003, Xinhua News Agency said, citing the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
During their April meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, Xi and Trump agreed to establish a comprehensive economic dialogue and initiate a 100-day economic cooperation plan.
In May, the two nations announced initial results in areas like agriculture, electronic payments, financial services and energy.
U.S. beef was banned in China in 2003 after a scare over mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Since then, U.S. producers and government bodies have been making attempts to reopen the market.
Mandy Ning, sales and marketing manager for Asia with Morton's The Steakhouse, a U.S.-based chain with outlets in China, said the agreement is good news because the price of imported beef may drop.
Craig Uden, president of the U.S. National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said the terms reflect China's trust in the safety and quality of U.S. beef. "We hope that by getting our foot in the door, we can develop a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship," he said.
According to the USDA, U.S. producers must track the origin of the U.S.-born cattle destined for export to China. Shipments must come from cattle less than 30 month sold, and the meat should not contain growth promoters.
China has become one of the largest import markets for beef. Beef imports exceeded 1.02 million metric tons in 2016, up 12.6 percent from the same period the previous year, according to the General Administration of Customs.
China also is working on importing more U.S. soybeans and cotton as well as advance manufactured items, officials said.
Sino-U.S. trade increased from .5 billion in 1979 to 4.3 billion last year. The U.S. trade deficit with China was 4.8 billion in 2016.