Ruhland: U.S. and China Need Each Other for Economic Success

The U.S. China Heartland Association recently held an agricultural trade roundtable with officials from the U.S. and China. Polly Ruhland, CEO of the United Soybean Board, took part in the discussions aimed at improving the relationship between both countries. She says a better working relationship between the world’s two largest economies will benefit the world economy as well.

“To expand protein trade and lift up the nutrition and well-being of peoples and nations around the world, the U.S. and China must prioritize understanding each other and shared values, which include free and open trade, quality, and sustainability. As both countries work toward meeting purchase requirements as outlined in the U.S.-China Phase One Agreement, market access is mission-critical.”

A better relationship will lead to fewer trade barriers, something that benefits both countries financially.

“Cultural understanding can prevent trade barriers and reduce tariffs. U.S. agriculture and particularly an important high-quality and sustainable soybean crop offers reliability, consistency, and quality to China. China’s growing interest in sustainability widens an opportunity for the U.S. to supply this important market with sustainable and high-quality soybean protein.”

Ruhland says the two countries are benefitting from a trade relationship that began four decades ago. American farmers have China to thank for the high-quality soybean genetics in the U.S.

“All soybean genetics originated in China, so all of our farmers have China to thank for our high-quality products. Today, China represents 60 percent of world trade on soybeans and about 65 percent of U.S. soybean exports. In short, China is an important market for U.S. soybean farmers. We see global demand for protein rising significantly despite past and current system shocks related to animal disease. Through pork and soybean trade with the U.S., U.S. agriculture and U.S. farmers are important to China’s economic recovery post-African Swine Flu and both of our long-term growth and development.”

She says the U.S. produces more soybeans than it can consume, while China can’t grow enough to meet its domestic demand. That means the two countries need each other, and improving the relationship between the countries is the right place to start.

“Even as advancements integrate into Chinese systems of production, there is still a large gap, and China needs soybeans. In the past 30 years, the gap has grown in percentage and absolute terms. The U.S. now produces over 50 bushels an acre, and that is the beauty and necessity of international trade; the abilities for countries with more to share, serve, and export to markets that need our food.”