On Wednesday (31 January), Prime Minister Theresa May met with China’s second most important politician, Premier Li Keqiang, to signal her determination to boost trade with the giant economy.
Speaking in Beijing, Mrs May revealed that British beef would be exported to China for the first time since the BSE, or ‘mad cow’, crisis in 1996.
The ban on British beef is set to be lifted in China within six months.
Following the meeting with Li Keqiang, the Prime Minister signalled the start of a “golden era” in relations between Britain and China.
She said: “We have agreed new measures to improve market access in China and remove barriers to trade.
“This includes an agreement to make progress on the lifting of the BSE ban on British beef exports within six months and an agreement to allow exports of a broader range of dairy products from the UK to China.”
Mrs May said Britain would be more “outward looking” Britain leaves the EU. “We are committed to building on our deep and mature ties,” she said. “We believe that is in the best interests of the UK.”
“Brexit is a situation that both our countries face,” Li Keqiang explained, “our bilateral relationship will not change with the changes of UK relations”.
Theresa May is now due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday (1 February) to forge closer ties with the two countries post-Brexit.
The UK’s National Beef Association welcomed the news: “The NBA are delighted at the prospect of new markets for British Beef. The lift of the ban on British Beef imports to China would be a fantastic step forward in forging new export relationships post Brexit.”
Demand for British
Demand for British food and drink is growing in China, with the total value of exports rising by a third to £438m in 2016.
In particular, demand for UK pork has doubled in terms of value over the last three years. Nine producers already export to China and generated £43m last year.
Levy board AHDB has identified China as a ‘very high’ potential market for UK pig meat exports and it is already the UK’s biggest customer outside the EU, importing 40,000 tonnes of UK pork and 36,000 tonnes of UK offal in 2016.
A pork export deal with China announced last year will bring a £200 million boost to the UK food industry and support 1,500 jobs.
The new agreements include approval to export from five sites in Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, County Antrim and County Tyrone – meaning Northern Ireland will take advantage of this export success story for the first time.
The announcement follows an export deal worth £34 million that will soon see British beef on dinner plates and restaurant menus across the Philippines.