On October 23, 2023, Chinese Ambassador to the United States Xie Feng attended the U.S.-China Sustainable Agricultural Trade Forum and Contract Signing Ceremony in Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, upon invitation, and delivered a keynote speech. President of the World Food Prize Foundation, former Governor of Iowa and former U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, President Emeritus of the World Food Prize Foundation Kenneth Quinn, Chairman of the U.S. Heartland China Association and former Governor of Missouri Bob Holden, and Acting Deputy Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Jason Hafemeister also attended the event and delivered remarks. Chinese Consul-General in Chicago Zhao Jian, representatives of relevant government departments, industry associations, agricultural enterprises, and farmers from both countries attended the event.
Ambassador Xie said that China was founded on agriculture, and ensuring sufficient food for the 1.4 billion people has always been our top priority. Agriculture is also one of the first and the most productive and promising areas for China-U.S. cooperation. Big granaries need big markets, and with big markets we are ready to share big opportunities. China-U.S. agricultural cooperation features complementarity and mutual benefit. China is the world’s largest importer of agricultural products, while the United States is the largest exporter. Bilateral agricultural trade exceeded US$50 billion last year. China-U.S. agricultural cooperation is a rich land with bright prospects. As China builds up its strength in agriculture, there will be an even more robust demand for quality agricultural products, which will open up vast space for China-U.S. agricultural cooperation in agritech innovation and green agriculture. China-U.S. agricultural cooperation benefits both peoples and the world. Global food security is facing grave and complex challenges. China-U.S. agricultural cooperation will enable the two countries to jointly combat common challenges such as global food security with advanced agritech. This is the shared responsibility of China and the United States as two major countries for building a world free from hunger and want.
Ambassador Xie emphasized that we are still facing serious difficulties and challenges in China-U.S. relations. To deepen agricultural cooperation, we need to say no to attempts to politicize economic issues or overstretch the concept of security. Recently, a top international agriculture company was ordered by a U.S. state to sell the farmland it had owned for 35 years. The company has employed 4,000 Americans, and has been serving American farmers with advanced agritech across over 40 states. Annually it provides a salary of about US$510 million and purchases US$2 billion worth of goods and services, creating jobs and boosting local economies. Over the past 53 years of its operation in the United States, never has it posed any national security risk. But now, it is subject to unreasonable suppression simply because it was bought by a Chinese company six years ago. If such discrimination and unfair treatment happens to an American company investing elsewhere, which risks getting kicked out anytime in disregard of the contract, how would the U.S. government and people feel? Is there any basic respect for the spirit of contract, market rules and fair play?
Ambassador Xie said that 38 years ago, President Xi Jinping personally sowed seeds of friendship during his first visit to Iowa. Today, the seeds have grown into lush trees. When getting together with his old friends from Iowa in 2012, President Xi said that “Iowa was my first stop to get to know the United States, and you were the first group of Americans that I came into contact with. To me, you are America.” Today, this is still the case: the warmhearted and hardworking people of Iowa continue to be the epitome of America. Ambassador Xie said that he is deeply impressed by how much our peoples share in common: we both have a deep love for the soil under our feet, both take pride in our honest work, and both want a better life. Our pursuit of peace, enthusiasm for cooperation and value of friendship are not to be dismissed. He called for joint efforts to sow more seeds of friendship, and reap more fruits of cooperation on the fields of hope.
Terry Branstad, Kenneth Quinn and Bob Holden spoke highly of China’s achievements in agricultural development and huge contribution to global food security, and stressed that U.S.-China agricultural cooperation is beneficial for both countries and the world. They expressed readiness to make every effort to expand friendly exchanges and practical cooperation between the two sides through the World Food Prize Foundation, the U.S. Heartland China Association and other civil society groups in the Midwest. Acting Deputy Under Secretary Jason Hafemeister said that the two sides should continue to implement the consensus reached by the two Presidents in Bali, advance cooperation in agriculture and food security, promote market openness and agritech innovation, and work together to tackle food crises, climate change and other global challenges. CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) Jim Sutter said that the U.S. soybean industry is ready to continue to actively serve the Chinese market, provide China with high-quality products, and consolidate the ballast role of agriculture in U.S.-China cooperation. Chairman of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) Brent Boydston said that the U.S. grain industry supports free trade and wishes to overcome the challenges in bilateral relations and continue working with Chinese partners for win-win results. President of the China Chamber of Commerce for Imp. & Exp. of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (CFNA) Cao Derong said that he looks forward to working with relevant parties in Iowa to make good use of the China-U.S. province/state-level trade cooperation mechanism and promote more practical cooperation.
The event was co-sponsored by CFNA, USSEC, USGC and the Iowa Soybean Association. CFNA signed a memorandum of cooperation with USSEC, and business representatives from around China signed more than 10 agricultural product contracts with U.S. companies.
Before the event, Ambassador Xie met with President of the World Food Prize Foundation Terry Branstad, President Emeritus of the World Food Prize Foundation Kenneth Quinn, and Chairman of the U.S. Heartland China Association Bob Holden respectively. At noon, Ambassador Xie also held a roundtable with representatives from Iowa, including Des Moines, during which they had in-depth and extensive discussions on China-U.S. relations, as well as exchanges and cooperation at the subnational level and in agriculture, education, culture, tourism, youth and other fields.
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