China reopens markets for Canadian beef and pork

Cattle producers show off their stock at the 2017 Prince Albert Exhibition. – Herald file photo.

The federal government says a nearly four-month long trade dispute with China over pork and beef shipments has ended.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday that shipments would continue for the first time since June, calling the deal “good news for Canadian farmers.”

“Canadian pork and beef exports to China will resume,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter. “Thanks to Ambassador (Dominic) Barton and the Canadian meat industry for their work on re-opening this important market for our meat producers and their families.”

“After months of hard work and constructive dialogue, China will be re-opening its market for Canadian pork and beef,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau added. “Thank you to many who played a role. We will continue to work hard for our producers and processors.”

China suspended all imports of Canadian beef and pork on June 25, 2019 after inspectors found residue from a restricted feed additive in a batch of Canadian pork products. Investigators later found forged veterinary health certificates connected with the shipment, which led to an RCMP investigation.

At the time, International Trade and Diversification Minister Jim Carr said Canada had a reputation for being a safe and reliable supplier of pork. He suggested that whoever was responsible for the contaminated shipment was trying to take advantage of that reputation.

Organizations representing pork and beef producers from across the country welcomed the news that shipments to China would resume.

“The Canadian beef industry look forward to the resumption of trade and continuing to build on the long-standing Canada-Chine trade relationship,” Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CAA) vice-president Bob Lowe said in a media release. “The CAA thanks the Governments of Canada and China for their work in resolving the issue.”

“We are very appreciative of the efforts of government officials to help restore reliable access to China,” Canadian Pork Council (CPC) chair Rick Bergmann added. “We’d like to thank Canadian Agriculture and Agri-food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr for the leadership they have shown in working to resolve this issue. We look forward to working with Ambassador Barton to further strengthen Canadian-Chinese relations”

Representatives from the Canadian meat industry have scheduled talks in China next week. Those groups include Canada Pork International, the Canadian Meat Council, and the CPC.

“This mission to China is very timely,” CPC first vice-president Hans Kristensen said. “(It) will allow us to deepen our understanding of the market’s requirements and strengthen our relationships with Chinese importers.”

The CAA and other beef industry representatives will also meet with Chinese officials sometime in November.

Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe also welcomed the decision in a rare show of solidarity with the federal government. However, other parts of the agriculture sector still need help, he said, particularly grain producers.

China placed a ban on Canadian canola after inspectors allegedly found pests in some shipments. The federal government requested a formal World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting with China in September to discuss the issue, alleging that China repeatedly refused to provide adequate scientific evidence to justify their decision.

“Regaining access to Chinese markets for our pork and beef products is good news for Saskatchewan producers,” Moe wrote on Twitter. “Our priority continues to be to see the Chinese ban on canola reversed. Saskatchewan is actively engaging with the federal government, industry and other stakeholders to fully restore market access.”