December 4, 2008

US, China agriculture officials meet to discuss food safety issues


US agricultural officials and their Chinese counterparts are meeting to discuss how China can develop an effective food safety system, US Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said Wednesday (December 3).


The discussions follow a series of highly publicized food contamination scandals in China that have led many consumers to stop buying certain foods, such as dairy products and eggs, for fear of contamination.


"We have a lot of experience and background in (food safety) history to share with our Chinese counterparts, and we see a very important commitment from the Chinese government" to ensure food safety, Schafer said during a press conference one day ahead of the Strategic Economic Dialogue in Beijing.


It is important to restore confidence in foods among Chinese consumers, and the US will continue to work with China to develop inspection and prevention systems, said Schafer.


Schafer said was "very confident" that food in China is safe and of high quality.


Asked about a rumoured China import tax hike on grains amid tumbling global commodities prices, Schafer said any "artificial trade barrier" could be counterproductive. "It actually made food availability worse when several countries tried to solve the problem by creating trade barriers," he said.


The best way to manage prices is to allow goods to flow freely and producers to make proper planting decisions based on pricing in the market, the agriculture secretary said.


Schafer also said the US was confident "we can see successful completion to the Doha round this year" as much progress has been made in the last two months.


The focus of talks is now moving from agricultural products to non-agricultural products, which will lead to a ministerial level session to solve outstanding issues, he said.

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