(Updates with officials’ comments starting in third paragraph.)
Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and China plan to sign a five-year accord to cooperate on agriculture trade, production and food security, expanding ties as population and income growth in Asia boost demand for everything from pork to cotton.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaking at a farm symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, said he will sign the accord today with Han Changfu, China’s minister of agriculture. The U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of agricultural products, and China was its biggest customer last year at $22.17 billion.
“How the U.S. and China cooperate on agricultural issues will be very important for world markets,” Scott Sindelar, the U.S. counselor for agricultural affairs in Beijing, said in an an interview at the first ever U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium. “Global food security, sustainable agricultural production and food safety are the three pillars to this cooperative accord.”
Companies including Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. signed contracts yesterday to export $4.3 billion of soybeans to China. Iowa is the biggest U.S. producer of corn, soybeans, hogs and eggs.
“This is an important diplomatic event for China and the U.S.,” Han said at the opening ceremony of the symposium. “Agriculture has become one of the highlights in U.S.-Chinese relations. Agriculture has had a huge benefit on both countries.”
Bian Zhenhu, president of the China Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs and Native Produce, said yesterday during the soybean-signing ceremony in Muscatine, Iowa, that improved relations between the world’s two biggest economies were key in promoting more bilateral trade.
“This symposium is a historic event,” Vilsack said today before escorting China’s Vice President Xi Jinping to visit an Iowa corn and soybean farm. “The rapid development of China- U.S. agricultural cooperation and trade has provided tremendous benefits for the people of both countries. We want to continue building those cooperative relationships and public-private partnerships.”
Xi, in line to begin taking over China’s top leadership posts beginning later this year, traveled yesterday to Muscatine, a town on the Mississippi River he visited as a provincial agriculture official 27 years ago while researching ways to improve crop and livestock production.
Record crops the past five years have stabilized supplies of wheat, corn and rice in China, while imports of soybeans increased, Xi said during today’s opening ceremony of the agricultural symposium. The improving balance in supply and demand and management of reserves of grain and cooking oils has helped to stabilize food prices in China, Xi said.
“To raise China-U.S. mutually beneficial agricultural cooperation to a higher level will help us achieve stable development of our domestic economies and help the world economy attain a faster recovery,” Xi said. “Maintaining stable development of agricultural production is of great significance” to China, which has less than 9 percent of the world’s arable land and 21 percent of global population, Xi said.
--Editors: Steve Stroth, Thomas Galatola
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