Towards a New Chapter in the Mutually Beneficial Agricultural Cooperation Between China and the United States
Address by H.E. Xi Jinping
16 February 2012
I am glad to join you at this China-US High Level Agricultural Symposium jointly hosted by China's Ministry of Agriculture and the US Department of Agriculture during my official visit to the United States. I am glad not only because I visited Iowa known as the "food capital" of the country 27 years ago as the head of a Chinese delegation to study corn plantation and deep processing, but also because, prior to that, I had spent seven years working in western China as a farmer and later a village head. In my successive service as an official in Hebei, Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai, agriculture was invariably part of my portfolio. I have thus had a soft spot for agriculture, the countryside and the farmers. While extending my warm congratulations to the successful opening of this symposium, I wish to express cordial welcome and deep respect to all the Chinese and Americans present today, particularly those who have been working in agriculture-related areas.
With strengthening the mutually beneficial agricultural cooperation between China and the US as the theme, this symposium will address such hot topics as food security, food safety, sustainable agriculture, and bilateral agricultural trade. The discussions, in my view, will further deepen China-US agricultural exchanges and cooperation and play a big role in promoting the agricultural industry in both countries and making our rural areas and farmers more prosperous.
Food is the first necessity of the people. With agriculture constituting the basic industry underpinning human survival and development, food security ranks with energy security and financial security as the three pillars of economic security in the present-day world. It is therefore of major and far-reaching importance for us to promote international agricultural and food cooperation at the strategic level, thus enhancing mutual interest and common development of all countries.
Agriculture is an important front to grow our relations and deepen our cooperation. Over the years, China-US exchanges and cooperation in agriculture have maintained a good momentum of steady growth. This is attributable first and foremost to the fact that both are major agricultural countries, enjoying a great deal of common interests and a broad space of cooperation.
Secondly, it is attributable to China's strong performance in fulfilling its WTO commitments over the past decade. As promised, China reduced its tariffs on agricultural products to one quarter of the world's average, and its fairly low level of support to domestic producers has constituted no barrier to normal trade. Over the 10 years, agricultural trade between China and the US has maintained an average annual growth rate of more than 20%. With the trade volume topping US$30 billion in 2011, China has become the largest export market for American agricultural products. The rapid growth of China-US agricultural trade has not only increased food varieties for our kitchens, but also provided suitable consumer markets for the high-quality agricultural products from both countries.
Needless to say, the steady growth of China-US agricultural cooperation is attributable to the close attention paid by the two governments. The agricultural sectors of the two countries are quite different in natural resource endowment, stage of development and the level of technology. But both governments have attached great importance to agriculture, made increased agricultural trade and improved investment environment the key agenda item and regarded closer international cooperation as an important vehicle for domestic agricultural development and common progress in global agricultural development, thus facilitating a sustained and steady agricultural development in both countries, with continuous expansion of their agricultural markets and deepening of their agricultural cooperation. What is more, the uninterrupted and effective dialogue and practical collaboration between the agricultural agencies of the two countries under such bilateral mechanisms as the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogues, China-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade and China-US Joint Commission on Agriculture have contributed to the track record of success in China-US agricultural cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a developing country of 1.34 billion people, China always attaches great importance to food security of the nation, and gives agricultural production, rural development and income multiplication for farmers the highest priority so as to effectively meet the challenge of feeding its enormous population. Over the 60-odd years since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, China has increased its grain output from over 100 million tons to 570 million tons, with the per capita level increasing from 200 kilograms to 400 kilograms. The supply of meat, eggs, dairy products, aquatic products, vegetables and fruits have grown in both quantity and variety. Per capita net annual earnings of farmers have increased from 44 yuan to 6,977 yuan, resulting in a substantial drop in rural poor and marked improvement of farmers' livelihood. With less than 9% of the world's arable land, China has managed to feed almost 21% of the world's population. In 2011, China succeeded in raising its grain output for the eighth consecutive year since 2004, and achieving a harvest of grain over 500 million tons for the fifth consecutive year since 2007. All this has ensured stability in domestic grain market.
As population continues to grow and the process of urbanization and industrialization moves rapidly forward, China's overall demand for grain has increased steadily. Yet food consumption, which has decreased slightly in per capita terms, is making up a smaller share of overall grain consumption. At present, aside from the soy bean which needs imports to fill the supply gap, China enjoys a basic balance in the production and demand of the three staple grains of wheat, rice and corn. China has an adequate grain reserve and sufficient market supply. The bumper harvests in years running have further increased China's grain reserve. Well-structured reserves of grain and processed food grain and cooking oil have been set up across the country with continued improvement in their management. This has not only effectively stabilized grain prices at home, but also significantly contributed to global food security. By actively conducting international agricultural exchanges and cooperation and providing needed agricultural assistance to relevant developing countries within the framework of South-South cooperation, particularly in the area of effectively increasing the acreage of hybrid rice, China has played a positive role in enhancing agricultural production and grain producing capacity of the developing countries, thus helping achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the world we live today, agricultural production has come under increasing strains of population, resources and the environment, and the challenge posed by climate change to agriculture and food security is looming larger with each passing day. With global economic recovery still beset by uncertainties and destabilizing factors of one kind or another, a stable and growing agricultural sector is of great importance for consolidating the gains in responding to the international financial crisis and promoting a strong, sustainable and balanced expansion of the global economy. We should cultivate a concept of cooperative security in global grain production as in many other areas. To bring the mutually beneficial China-US agricultural cooperation to a new high will, under the current situation, not only serve the smooth performance of the respective domestic economies, but also facilitate a faster recovery of the world economy.
Standing on a new historic starting point, we need to do the following to deepen the agricultural exchanges and cooperation between China and the United States. First, we must step up science and technology cooperation, enhance agricultural productivity, do our best to conserve resources and protect the environment, and promote a sustainable development of agriculture. Second, we must step up trade and commerce, improve on the allocation of resources, create a fair and reasonable market environment, fully tap the cooperation potential, and promote a faster development of agribusinesses. Third, we must step up communication and coordination, deepen collaboration and cooperation in addressing the hot-button issues facing global agricultural development, promote information and resource sharing, and work together to ensure food security around the world. This afternoon, the agricultural ministries of the two countries will sign the Plan of Strategic Cooperation in Agriculture in which the goals and priority areas of our deepening cooperation will be clearly identified. I am confident that China-US cooperation in agriculture already enjoying a sound foundation will grow from strength to strength with an even broader prospect of development.
In conclusion, I wish the symposium a complete success.