Thanks very much, John, and thank you all for being here. It is a real pleasure to be here, given how important this issue is.
Today’s event is the culmination of a year-long effort by the United States and China to increase our coordination on food safety issues.
But as we look at the world and the world’s consumers, this work is about more than just assuring food safety. It is also about the broader impact of agricultural trade supporting food security and economic prosperity for both of our nations.
The growth of food and agriculture trade between our nations is impressive.
From 2000 to 2015, U.S. agriculture exports to China increased eleven-fold, and China’s agriculture exports to the United States grew seven-fold.
China has been one of our top export markets for our food and agriculture exports for some time.
Agricultural exports – whether Chinese or American – are important to rural development in our countries, because they create jobs and stimulate the economy across the agricultural supply chain.
As my friend and agricultural mentor Secretary Vilsack as taught me, exports support more than one million American jobs on and off the farm. And exports provide 20% of farm income.
The one thing we know is that where there is an emerging middle class, there is increased demand for more protein, better nutrition and safe food – and all of that spells more U.S. ag exports to China.
What inhibits that trade? Well, in part the answer is unwarranted non-tariff barriers and agricultural policies that distort production. While tariffs have indeed come down over the last several years, non-tariff barriers have increased.
For example, the United States has long sought that China have a transparent, timely and science-based regulatory system for the review and approval of products derived from agricultural biotechnology.
We have had many discussions on these topics, but we still have unnecessary trade disruptions, because of the asynchronous approval process. This not only hurts U.S. farmers, but it hurts China’s livestock industry and China’s own innovation industry.
To enhance trade and economic prosperity in both our countries, it’s incumbent on both governments to put in place food safety systems that protect consumers at home, while facilitating trade in safe food.
It’s against this backdrop that our two countries have made concerted efforts to strengthen and deepen our dialogue on food safety.
The United States has made important strides in making regulations and guidelines more transparent so that we can increase consumer protection and public confidence in the food supply.
For its part, we encourage China to examine its trade barriers – and avoid creating barriers based on questionable food safety claims.
Having risk-based food safety regimes grounded in international standards is not only important to ensure safe imports and domestic food supplies, but it's important for a more efficient and sustainable domestic agriculture sector.
Getting our regulatory approaches to food safety right is imperative to supporting economic development. It means examining issues of science, transparency, and predictability in regulations and policies. And addressing those issues can greatly reduce the cost and risk of doing business.
The goal of our governments should be to draw from our experiences and involve private sector experts like yourselves in transparent, science-based and accountable rulemaking and standards.
The themes of our discussions today are key—consumer protection and confidence, transparency of regulations, and managing food safety incidents.
Today, we look forward to having a rich discussion among experts on how the implementation of science-based regulations, as well as increased public-private sector coordination, can ensure that global supply chains reliably produce safe food for all consumers.
It is incumbent on our governments to ensure that food safety regulations provide for safe food, and facilitate trade.
In this way, trade in food and agriculture can meet its potential, promoting global food security and economic prosperity for all of our citizens.
So thank you again for being here and participating in today's events. I look forward to a robust discussion. Take care.