No Progress on US-China Biotech Issues

Cindy ZimmermanInternational, trade, USDA

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were among those who participated in a Thanksgiving week session of the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in Washington last week, the last one for the Obama Administration. The talks resulted in some progress in the areas of intellectual property protection, pharmaceutical and medical devices, and information security policies, but little on important biotechnology issues.

USDA Sec'y Vilsack (right) with USTR Froman and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang

USDA Sec’y Vilsack (right) with USTR Froman and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang

“Although China has made some progress, it has not fully implemented commitments on agricultural biotechnology that it made to the United States which date back as far as September 2015,” said Vilsack. “Lack of progress on biotech issues will continue to add years to the process of commercializing them, will slow innovation and set back global efforts to address food security and climate change. The United States expects that China will fully implement its prior commitments and will work collaboratively with us to address these global challenges in the future.”

Vilsack noted that during last week’s meeting, the United States requested that China clarify how its approval system for approving biotech traits will operate and work constructively to help address the global problem of asynchronous approvals for biotech products. “The U.S. will be watching the meeting of China’s National Biosafety Committee scheduled to take place next month, and expects that the remaining eight biotech traits will be reviewed based on science and risk, and accordingly approved,” Vilsack said. “I remain optimistic that, in the final weeks of this Administration, we can still make additional progress on priority issues including biotechnology approvals and market access for U.S. beef.”

Established in 1983, the JCCT is the primary forum for addressing bilateral trade and investment issues and promoting commercial opportunities between the United States and China. This year’s private sector engagements included roundtable discussions on corporate restructuring, agriculture and food safety, and the digital economy.