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Ag roundtable calls for US-China joint efforts on key issues

By MAY ZHOU  in Austin, Texas | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-03-23 09:36

Leaders from the agricultural sectors in the US and China hope that their large trade volume in farm products could play a role in improving bilateral relations.

Government officials from the national to the local level in both countries converged via Zoom to open the virtual conference of the US-China Agriculture Roundtable on Monday night to stress the need for dialogue and collaboration. 

The roundtable hosted by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) and the US Heartland China Association (USHCA) will have three virtual events.

The events will showcase small- and medium-sized agricultural enterprise, and two dialogues will focus on agricultural education, and collaboration strategy on climate change and rural prosperity.

"I hope the conference will bring some warmth to the chilling China-US relations," said Lin Songtian, president of CPAFFC.

Chinese Ambassador to the United States Qin Gang pointed out that the US is the world's largest exporter of agricultural products, while China is the biggest importer. "As a highlight of China-US cooperation, agricultural cooperation is well-grounded and highly complementary between the two countries," he said.

By Qin's account, since the phase one trade deal was signed in 2020, China has been faithfully fulfilling its agricultural procurement and commitment. 

"On average, each American farmer exported more than $11,000 (in) agricultural products to China. Agricultural cooperation best explained the win-win nature of our economic and trade relations," Qin said.

Indeed, 2021 was a record year for US-China agricultural trade, acknowledged Jason Hafemeister, acting deputy under-secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs at the US Department of Agriculture. 

Hafemeister said that the US exported more than $33 billion in agricultural products to China last year, a big increase over the prior record of $25 billion, and much better than the $10 billion as a result of the US-initiated trade war. China was the top export destination for US farmers in 2021.

"We have great optimism that we can do even better. If we can stay on track with the market staying open and China continuing to reform some of its restrictive practices, this in the short term could be a $50 billion market," Hafemeister said. 

He said the ups and downs in bilateral agricultural trade offer a lesson, that is, when there is restriction on trade, US farmers get lower prices and Chinese consumers pay more, and it isn't good for either. 

Ni Pin, president of the China General Chamber of Commerce-Chicago, said that there are about 250 Chinese companies investing in the Midwest, most of them in agricultural sectors. 

Echoing the sentiment of other participating officials, Bob Holden, CEO and president of USHCA, said that he is encouraged to see President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping maintain a regular dialogue.  

He emphasized that collaboration is essential in three areas — sustainably feeding the growing population, combating climate change and prevention of future pandemics — for the planet to survive and thrive. 

"We will reap what we sow this season, and this is the season for planting peace in our world," Holden said.

Wuke Zhang in Oxford, Ohio, contributed to this story.

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