China is committed to “enhancing efforts” to implement the 1999 bilateral agreement on wheat, China's chief trade negotiator assured representatives of U.S. Wheat Associates recently. “We will honor the agreement without reservation,” Vice Minister Long Yong Tu told the group.

Evidently responding to reports that the U.S. grain industry was dismayed to learn of problems with full implementation of the bilateral agreement that was to resolve phytosanitary issues and allow more U.S. wheat exports into China, Vice Minister Long asked USW and U.S. Grains Council representatives to a meeting in Washington to discuss various issues.

“We are pleased that Minister Long recognized our concerns with reported quarantine issues, and we are pleased with his assurances that the Chinese are committed to strengthening their efforts in opening their marketplace to U.S. wheat,” said Alan Tracy, USW president. “We are looking forward to seeing substantive steps towards implementation, and none could be more substantive than a substantial wheat purchase.”

“We are cautiously optimistic but we want to see implementation in place, and we need to see grain shipments clearing with no problems,” Tracy emphasized.

The vice minister told the USW representatives that the Chinese are committed to implementing the agreement, providing transparency on quarantine issues and providing notification of problems, as is the accepted WTO procedure in phytosanitary issues.

USW China is the “biggest wild card in the world wheat supply and demand picture,” the wheat group said in a recent newsletter.

“We appreciate Vice Minister Long's candor and openness with us. Hopefully, this will open the way to strengthened trade relations,” Tracy said.

As recently as 1995, China was the world's largest wheat importer in addition to being the largest wheat producer. Chinese wheat imports have been low the China last two years, but are expected to increase substantially over the next few years. For next year, the U.S. agricultural counsellor in Beijing has projected imports of around 4 million metric tons, with perhaps half of that coming from the United States.

U.S. Wheat Associates is the industry's export market development organization, working around the world on behalf of American wheat producers.