WASHINGTON Dec 18 The United States could raise
the issue of China's recent rejection of several U.S. corn
cargoes at trade talks this week, an official said on Wednesday.
A full range of agricultural trade issues for the two
countries is expected to be on the agenda at the high-level
talks, but the corn issue has emerged as perhaps the most
Beijing has rejected as much as 600,000 tonnes of U.S.-grown
corn since mid-November on the grounds they contained
genetically modified grain not approved for sale in China, a
private consultancy estimates. That would be more than twice the
official tally of rejections.
The strain, produced by Syngenta, has U.S. approval and is
approved for import by many corn-importing nations but has
waited more than two years for Chinese acceptance.
The U.S. trade representative's office "is closely following
this issue," a spokeswoman said. "We have raised concerns with
China regarding increasing delays in the approval process for
Known as the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, the
annual consultations are set for Thursday and Friday.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is part of the U.S. delegation
headed by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade
Representative Michael Froman.
"At the upcoming JCCT plenary, we will be discussing the
full range of U.S.-China agricultural trade issues. Our
expectation is that biotech approvals will be handled in a
timely and predictable manner, through a transparent,
science-based process," said the USTR spokeswoman.
Before departure for Beijing, Vilsack said a subject for the
talks would be a potential agreement for a pilot program to
synchronize U.S. and Chinese regulatory review of new biotech
crop varieties. At present, China does not begin its reviews
until U.S. approval is received.
"We think we can at least start them simultaneously,"
Vilsack told USDA's radio news service. "We think we can speed
that process up."
Vilsack said there were "serious issues with the
biotechnology and the slow progress in approving biotechnology
events that are now causing significant concern in the market
because recent shipments of corn have been deferred or delayed."
China rocketed into a top U.S. farm export market in recent
years. After three years as the No. 1 customer, it is forecast
to buy $21.5 billion worth of U.S. ag goods this fiscal year, a
close second behind Canada. China is the fifth-largest corn
importer in the world and the leader in cotton and soybean
The high-level, JCCT talks are the culmination of a year of
activity by working groups on issues such as medicines,
computers, agriculture and intellectual property rights.
The rejection of cargoes has roiled the corn futures market,
although China continues to buy U.S. corn in large volumes. Corn
futures were down marginally at mid-day at the Chicago
Board of Trade.