As President Trump holds his first high—stakes meeting Thursday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, some lawmakers and the U.S. meat industry say beef—specifically reopening Chinese markets to U.S. beef—should be on the menu of what is to be discussed.
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A group of 39 bipartisan senators urged President Trump in an open letter Wednesday to address the topic, saying that while China lifted its ban on U.S. beef last September (which was set in place in 2003 in response to cases of mad cow disease) there have still been many “technical barriers” stopping U.S. beef from gaining access to China’s market.
“Opening this market to U.S. producers would create substantial opportunities for farmers and ranchers across the country, as China has an import market in excess of $2.5 billion and is the second largest importer of beef in the world,” the senators wrote Wednesday. “The current environment of low commodity prices further emphasizes the significance of trade to U.S. farmers and ranchers and the beef industry overall.”
Last month, reps from major U.S. meat industry groups penned a letter to Trump urging him to press China’s president on moving forward on Beijing’s promise to lift the decade-plus ban on some U.S. beef, saying it is locking them out of a billion-dollar market.
“As you may know, U.S. beef has been denied access to China since 2003. Last fall, China announced that it had lifted its ban on imports of U.S. beef but attempts since then to negotiate the technical terms of access have not been successful and we still are blocked from selling any U.S. beef to Chinese consumers. We need your leadership to resolve this unfair trade practice as soon as possible,” the letter said on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the North American Meat Institute, and the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Mike Salguero, CEO and founder of meat-delivery service ButcherBOX, tells FOX Business that he applauds “the idea” of reopening access to China’s beef consumers, especially because it would give the U.S. economy a boost.
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“Given the opportunity to compete, I’m confident the appetite for beef from our country, the largest, single producer of the world’s beef, will climb exponentially. That appetite would, of course, help boost the critical business of the committed farmers across the U.S,” Salguero says.
However last June, Beijing outlined a plan to reduce its citizens’ meat consumption by 50%, in a move it said would help slow global warming and improve public health. New dietary guidelines from China’s health ministry recommend that the nation’s 1.3 billion population should, per person, consume between 40 to 75 grams of meat each day.
Paul Shapiro, vice president of policy engagement for The Humane Society of the United States, says that is a step in the “right direction.”
“The Chinese government is right to be encouraging its citizens to eat much less meat, which is essential both for public health and for climate purposes. The U.S. government should also be working to help Americans enjoy a more plant-based diet rather than trying to promote increased meat production,” Shapiro tells FOX Business.