Mutually-Beneficial Cooperation, Win-Win Progress: An Interview with Minister Han on Sino-US Agricultural Cooperation


Agricultural production, trade, and consumption are strong in both China and the U.S. where agriculture is all considered as a strategic and fundamental industry. Agriculture is one of the very first areas where China and the U.S. started to work together. Thanks to the commitment of both governments, China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have worked hard to promote pragmatic cooperation, persisted in improving the level of cooperation, and thus gained remarkable achievements. Efforts during more than three decades were paid off when agricultural cooperation now becomes a valuable and integral part of bilateral relations.


Minister Han was invited to talk about the progress and prospect of Sino-US agricultural cooperation on February 12.


Minister Han stated that over 30 years, built on the sound momentum of growth, Sino-US agricultural cooperation has been constantly expanding and deepening. Achievements so far emphasize that mutually-beneficial and win-win cooperation between China and the U.S. in agriculture serves the interests of governments, businesses, and people from the two sides. As long as the two countries work actively with each other and make efforts together, there would be greater potential for cooperation ahead.


Complementary and fruitful cooperation in science and technology


Coupled with the presence of world-class international agricultural companies, the U.S. enjoys edge in agricultural science and technology, especially in R&D, breeding, and production. Meanwhile, China has great demands and leading technology in food production, biomass energy and agricultural processing.


“Both countries could contribute to improving agricultural science and technology of the two sides, promoting worldwide application of leading technology that benefits all mankind, ensuring global food security, and driving international agricultural growth by strengthening cooperation and making best of complementarities.” Minister Han said.


According to Minister Han, the two sides have engaged in fruitful cooperation in various areas including cropping, animal production, fisheries, R&D, training, processing and circulation of agricultural goods.


It is estimated that since the establishment of Joint Working Group of China-U.S. Agricultural Science and Technology Cooperation in 1980, more than 500 projects were conducted and in fields such as germplasm exchange, biomass energy, IPM, pesticide management, and promotion of agricultural technology, participated by 3000 experts. CAAS and CAU have also been active players in such cooperation.


Moreover, diversified ways of agricultural personnel exchange reaped great success. By jointly setting up R&D center and laboratories, building platforms for cooperation, and carrying out cooperation plans, the two sides have developed many experts in agricultural science and technology who was devoted to improving agricultural science and technology, and spurring agricultural growth.


Fast growing and mutually-beneficial trade


Minister Han mentioned that the fast growth of agricultural trade is a catalyst for the two sides to adjust agricultural structure and enrich agri-product markets. “The increasing Sino-US agricultural trade provides high-quality agri-products for people from both countries, supplements domestic supply, and creates marketing and job opportunities for farmers of both nations” Minister Han said.


1/3 of agri-products in the U.S. are exported. The market in China is crucial for the U.S. According to the statistics, from 2001 to 2010, agricultural trade rose from $ 4.1 billion to $ 24.5 billion, with a growth of 5.1 times and an annual increase of 22%. In 2010, China’s import of agri-products from the U.S. was $ 18.6 billion, 13% of total agricultural export of the U.S. China, therefore, became the number one market for U.S. agricultural goods. At the same time, China’s export of agri-products to the U.S. was $ 5.8 billion, 12% of China’s total agricultural export. The U.S. was the 3rd export destination of China’s agri-products.

Despite its small share in the overall trade, agricultural trade still grabs much attention from the two sides because of the uniqueness of agriculture.


Minister Han mentioned that during recent years, when issues such as food security and climate change are under the spotlight around the globe, the two sides have shown greater interest in stronger cooperation and dialogues in agriculture.


Strengthening investment


Minister Han pays much attention to expanding and strengthening bilateral investment in agriculture. He stressed that businesses of the two countries are an integral part of China-U.S. trade cooperation and a strong force for the growth of economic and trade relations in agriculture.


Since the reform and opening up in 1978, China welcomes investment from foreign businesses including that from the U.S., and makes best of the investment to speed up modern agriculture development. The U.S. companies including some on Fortune 500 have invested in China, some of which has an input of more than 10 billion RMB.


Investment from the U.S. companies covers a wide range of areas such as crop and animal farming, processing, agricultural machinery and marketing, and yields fruitful results. An inflow of foreign capital helped with financial problems of Chinese enterprises, and brought to China leading technology andmanagerial experience conducive to the upgrade of Chinese industries.


In recent years, as China’s economy continues to grow, investment from China in the U.S. is also increasing. Chinese businesses are showing growing interest in investing in the U.S.


Minister Han said:" I hope that enterprises from the two countries can join hands in spurring investment and cooperation to promote leading agricultural technology and develop sustainable agriculture. The two sides can explore potential for investment, push ahead bilateral economic and trade relations in agriculture, and create good atmosphere for cooperation through ways such as information sharing, joint research, and seminars."


Improved, pragmatic, and highly-efficient cooperation mechanisms


One thing to be noted is that China-U.S. agricultural cooperation maintains a sound momentum of sustainable development since the cooperation commenced more than three decade ago. Credit for this goes to two aspects, according to Minister Han.


First, China's agriculture has been growing steadily. Domestic consumer market of agri-products has been expanding rapidly andprovides huge opportunities.


Second, cooperation mechanisms such as China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Sino-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, and Sino-US Joint Committee on Cooperation in Agriculture set up platforms for dialogues and cooperation between the two nations in agriculture, which gave full play to the leading role of both governments.


Minister Han said that through improved and sound cooperation mechanisms, MOA and USDA hold regular meetings to maintain good communication.


In 2011, China and the U.S. jointly held the 4th Meeting of Sino-US Joint Committee on Cooperation in Agriculture to reinforce its strong influence in Sino-US agricultural cooperation and enhance the guidance for Joint Working Group of Agricultural Science and Technology Cooperation and Working Group on Bio-technology. Apart from inter-governmental mechanisms, partnership on a regular basis was also established between universities and research institutes of the two countries.


"For all these years, these mechanisms have contributed to stronger cooperation, increased exchange of personnel and enhanced mutual understanding and trust, leading to down-to-earth and highly-efficient agricultural cooperation between China and the U.S." Minister Han said. He also stated that MOA and USDA now work together more closely in areas such as policy and market information sharing, R&D in agriculture, sustainable agriculture and global food security.


Solid basis for cooperation and broad prospect


Over more than 30 years' development, Sino-US agricultural cooperation has gained solid basis. The two sides engage in both governmental and non-governmental cooperation with wide coverage and rich contents at all levels.


Minister Han stressed that China and the U.S. enjoy strong complementarities in agriculture. MOA and USDA will further strengthen cooperation, and enhance mutual understanding and trust. The two sides will work together in food security, food safety, sustainable agriculture, as well as agricultural science and technology. Both governments will be committed to deepen cooperation in various ways, especially by providing cooperation opportunities for the private sector, further carrying out exchange projects, promoting visiting-scholar programs, and conducting joint research.


"I believe that deepened cooperation, improved trade, increased investment and openness will have positive, extensive, and profound effect on agriculture both in China and the U.S. The two sides, therefore, could better tackle the challenge, enhance cooperation ahead, and gain win-win progress." Minister Han is confident about the future of Sino-US agricultural cooperation.


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