Good morning to everyone in St. Louis. I wish I could be with you in person, especially because it is the start of the Baseball season. And I am sure there are more than a few Cardinals fans in attendance in Missouri. I wish the Cardinals well and hope they may meet my Red Sox in the World Series in October.
It’s a real pleasure to be with you, I want to thank my long-time friend and colleague from the American Foreign Service Association Ambassador Ken Quinn for his introduction and I want to thank the U.S. Heartland China Association board for the invitation.
I’d like to recognize U.S. agricultural industry leaders in attendance from the soybean, corn, and livestock sectors for their industry’s support and sustained relationship and leadership with Chinese agricultural industry counterparts.
And of course, I want to recognize PRC Chargé d’affaires Xu Xueyuan for China’s continued interest and engagement on agricultural topics.
And I would like to thank other people for their leadership this morning, former Missouri Governor Bob Holden for his leadership on this issue.
And finally, congratulations to Ambassador Terry Branstad in his new role as President of the World Food Prize Foundation. Terry was a great Ambassador of the United States here in China. Terry and Chris, are very well remembered here and my wife Libby and I are grateful to them, they were so helpful to us as we got started here as well.
I want to talk this morning about an important subject, it’s about the U.S.-China bilateral relationship, it’s the most consequential for America and it’s going to play a significant part in affecting the course history, of our time here in the 21st century.
We are, China and the United States two largest economies in the world, our bilateral engagement affects not just the two of us, but the entire world.
Our relationship is complex and often complicated – it is a difficult, competitive relationship on many issues as all of you will understand and know very well.
The United States has also said consistently said that we are ready to work with the PRC when our interests coincide. And they do on climate change, agriculture, food security, global health and narcotics – particularly in stopping the flow of Fentanyl precursors into our country.
America’s agricultural engagement with the PRC remains strong and is a major positive part of our overall relationship with China and with the Chinese people.
On the topic of global food security, which is so important this year, we’re very proud the United States strongly supports the Black Sea Grain Initiative. I raised this issue with the Chinese authorities here, with the Minister of Agriculture Tang Renjian last month. And the United States welcomes its extension earlier in March.
The vicious Russian war against Ukraine has had a major and negative impact on global food security, including here in the PRC and has the potential to reverse recent global progress made to fight hunger and to fight poverty.
In my meetings with Chinese counterparts, I have asked them to support the United Nations effort and for them to push Russia, to encourage Russia to resume inspecting more vessels each day.
The United States is proud to be a global leader on this effort. And we’re proud to be a global leader in food security.
In the last 14 months alone, the United States has dedicated $13.5 billion in U.S. humanitarian and food security assistance to the rest of the world.
The United States is contributing record levels of emergency assistance while doubling down on agricultural development investment to stave off the next global food crisis. This includes programs for soil health and ensuring that crop varieties are adapted to an everchanging global climate.
Even before the current crisis, the United States has been investing nearly $2 billion annually toward strengthening global food security through the USAID’s Feed the Future Program and USDA’s Food for Progress and the McGovern – Dole Food for Education programs.
President Biden’s fiscal year2024 budget request to congress includes an additional $1.2 billion in support of food security and agricultural programs.
We continue to ask others around the world, including China, to join us in increasing support for UN efforts to address the global food security challenge. It’s one of the most important challenges facing the world today.
On another subject, and the subject at the heat of your discussions is agricultural trade, the United States exported a record $40.9 billion to the PRC in 2022.
Indeed, the China was the top market for U.S. agriculture for each of the last three years, equating to almost 20 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports on an annual basis.
Agricultural trade brings jobs and income to rural America. Agricultural trade is making a real and positive difference to our rural communities, across the heartland and in all our farm and ranch states, and in fisheries states like my home state of Massachusetts.
In my recent meeting with Minister of Agriculture Tang Renjian we had a very positive and very productive discussion. We both share an interest in increased and ongoing agricultural engagement between our two countries.
For more than 40 years, American farmers and American agricultural trade associations have worked with their Chinese counterparts to transform China’s agricultural sector.
Pioneering work by the U.S. Soybean Export Council, the U.S. Grains Council, and other organizations have greatly contributed to the modernization of China’s dairy, livestock, poultry, aquaculture, and feed industries, expanding opportunities for U.S. and Chinese farmers in both countries.
Maintaining a constructive agricultural relationship is very important for the overall bilateral relationship between our two countries.
We want to see continued strong exports of American agricultural products to China. It is also important that the government here in Beijing follows through on commitments that it has made to our government and to our farmers and ranchers in the United States.
We’re monitoring and we’re asking for the government here to honor fully its previous commitments to us, including those on agricultural biotechnology – technology that is critical to achieving global food security and global climate smart agriculture goals which are at the heart of our ag strategy worldwide.
We hope to see, for example, a more transparent and timely approval process for agricultural biotechnology in particular.
U.S. and international seed companies need to be able to invest in China – currently, this sector is on China’s so called ‘negative list’ which prevents our companies from doing so and from doing business in China.
We also continue to reiterate that the PRC honor its commitments on recognition of U.S. states as free from highly pathogenic avian influenza, developing a risk assessment for Ractopamine, and the recognition of the United States’ African Swine Fever Protection Zone.
These are all important issues to work out in the months ahead as we work together with China. The overall health of our agricultural relationship with China is strong, however, and I expect it to remain strong in 2023.
Let me conclude by saying that the United States Government and its agricultural stakeholders are proud of the past investment we have made and will support continued investment in agricultural cooperation with the government in Beijing and the Chinese people. We want to ensure agricultural sustainability, food security, and rural prosperity in both of our countries.
We’re also proud of the strength of our American farmers, ranchers, and fishing communities.
In closing, let me thank you all of you with the U.S. Heartland China Association for the opportunity to speak with you this morning, again I wish I could have been there in person. We in U.S. Mission to China, including our new Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs, Robert Hanson, we want to be your reliable partner in building even stronger food and agricultural ties between our countries.
Thank you again for the opportunity to be with you this morning in St. Louis.
And now that zero-COVID has ended and we can travel again, we hope very much we’ll see many of you out here in China please let us know when you’re coming, we look forward to welcoming you to the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Thank you and have a great conference.