Office of the United States Trade Representative


Statement on China’s Approval of Final Safety Certificates for Key U.S. Agricultural Products

Statement by Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman and U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick:

"The United States welcomes the announcement today that China’s Ministry of Agriculture has completed its biotechnology regulatory review of Roundup Ready soybeans and two corn and two cotton products. These biotech crop approvals are a significant development that should assure continued U.S. access to this important market.

"This announcement is good news for American farmers. China is the top foreign customer for U.S. soybeans and cotton. For the first five months of the current marketing year, U.S. soybean sales to China reached 8.3 million metric tons, more than a third of total U.S. soybean sales to all export destinations.

"China’s decision to approve permanent safety certificates for several biotechnology crops is another positive step for trade between our two countries and demonstrates the Chinese government’s commitment to the WTO principle of using sound science to determine such issues.

"We will continue to engage China on outstanding biotechnology issues to ensure that both American and Chinese farmers have access to this technology to increase agricultural productivity and to provide safe and wholesome products to consumers."

BACKGROUND: Chinese government officials have announced the approval of permanent safety certificates for several grains derived from plants improved through biotechnology. The decision comes after extensive testing by Chinese scientists who confirmed the safety of these crops, which has long been realized in the United States. The successful outcome of this issue resulted from close cooperation between the United States and China.

Previously, China required traders to obtain temporary safety certificates, usually good for only a few months, if they wished to import biotech grains. China is expected to finalize the safety approvals for other biotechnology products in the near future.

In 2003, U.S. agricultural exports to China reached a record of nearly $5 billion, in large part due to record exports of soybeans, which reached nearly $2.9 billion. U.S. cotton sales to China also rose significantly, amounting to almost $740 million compared to $141 million the previous year.

China also issued today permanent safety certificates for two corn and two cotton products produced through modern biotechnology.

This is the first permanent approval issued by China for imports of a food commodity produced through modern biotechnology.

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