Agricultural trade between China and the U.S. is still strong, despite tensions between the two countries in other areas, Chinese and U.S. trade experts and business insiders at an agriculture food forum said.
Looking back at the past 40 years of U.S.-China trade history, the business activities between the two countries have always been resilient, even when relations face challenges, said Zhao Zhenge, general representative in the U.S. of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and China Chamber of International Commerce in Washington.
"This is the result of the joint efforts of the business communities of the two countries trying to push bilateral relations back to the normal track," Zhao told the forum, held on Wednesday and Thursday.
Over the past 10 years the value of agricultural trade between the U.S. and China has risen $10.5 billion. The U.S. has become the second-largest import source and the third-largest export destination of Chinese agricultural products. China, on the other hand, is the largest agricultural export market for the U.S., Zhao said.
China's imports of U.S. agricultural products rose to new highs in the first half of this year, an indication that China is on track to become the leading buyer or importer of U.S. agricultural products for the third consecutive year.
During the first half of this year China's imports of U.S. agricultural products surpassed the full-year totals in 2018 and 2019, Zhao said. U.S. agricultural exports to China in the first half of this year were worth $17.5 billion, 15 percent more than in the corresponding period last year, the U.S. Census Bureau said.
Even when the global economy has been affected by such factors as COVID-19, conflicts and geopolitical changes, agricultural trade between the U.S. and China has continued to grow steadily, especially the trade in corn and beef products, Zhao said.
Last year, the U.S. shipped 5.89 million metric tons of corn products to China with a value of $1.78 billion. In addition, the U.S. exported 190,000 tons of beef to China with a value of $1.59 billion, he said.
"These data show that China and the U.S. have become two inseparable economic interests in the global economy. Being linked like bones and muscles, the two nations cannot be decoupled. The agricultural cooperation enjoys broad prospects for cooperation."
Garrett Borkhuis, director of trade and technical services at the USA Poultry &Egg Export Council in Georgia, said China has become one of the most important markets for U.S. poultry producers.
China banned all U.S. poultry from January 2015 due to the avian influenza outbreak in December 2014, but in November 2019 the U.S. regained access to the Chinese market, primarily through the Phase One trade deal. Since then China has become "an incredibly important market for U.S. poultry exports", Borkhuis said.
A total of 571 U.S. poultry plants and cold storage facilities are now registered with the General Administration of Customs of China data system, and can send their products to China, he said.
Borkhuis said he sees great potential for turkey exports to China. The U.S. is the world's top producer country of turkeys, a bird largely eaten by people in the U.S. during the Thanksgiving holiday, he said.
"Here in the U.S. turkey is very popular in places like Subway and Burger King, and we think there's an opportunity for that as well. Snack-food processing is very big in China, and they do things that we do not like here in the U.S., like turkey tendons, for their snack food processing."
Many U.S. farmers are interested in the Chinese market, despite the tense ties, Borkhuis said.
"They want to see conditions where there is more trade."
Li Minyan, general manager of China Certification &Inspection Group Americas, said the agricultural food trade was resilient before the pandemic and has continued to be so.
"People rely on food as their top priority, even with the epidemic, the unstable supply chain and the turbulent international and regional situation. Food is still the first concern."
The fifth Americas-Asia Agriculture Food Forum was jointly hosted by the U.S. office of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and China Certification &Inspection Group Americas. It was co-organized by the U.S.-China Agriculture Trade Service Center.