By Kelsey Johnson
OTTAWA/BEIJING (Reuters) – China will resume imports of Canadian beef and pork, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, some four months after Beijing blocked shipments amid an escalating diplomatic feud between the two countries.
“Good news for Canadian farmers today: Canadian pork and beef exports to China will resume,” Trudeau tweeted.
A spokesman at China’s foreign ministry confirmed on Wednesday that it had resumed allowing imports of the meat, adding that Canada has addressed the safety concerns it had and come up with a “rectification” plan.
“After China assessed this it believed that Canada’s rectification plan was basically in accordance with China’s demands to ensure safety, and agreed to resume acceptance of sanitary documents issued by the Canadian government’s competent authority for meat product exports to China,” spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily media briefing.
Bilateral tensions heightened after police in Vancouver arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies Co <HWT.UL>, in December 2018 on a U.S. arrest warrant. Shortly afterward, Beijing detained two Canadian men who were later charged for spying and are still being held.
Early this year China stopped purchasing Canadian canola seed, citing pest concerns, and in June authorities halted imports of Canadian beef and pork, citing bogus export certificates. Canadian officials confirmed at the time they had found falsified documents.
China was Canada’s third-largest pork market by value through August, with C$491 million ($373 million) in exports. Pork shipments to China had surged because of a deadly pig disease in parts of Asia.
In July Canada offered a plan to reassure China about the security of its meat export system, and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has insisted the pork-and-beef trade issue was different from the canola dispute. Canada is challenging China on canola at the World Trade Organization.
“Our long-standing trade relationship with China is very important to both sides and this represents an important step for both countries,” said Chris White, president of the Canadian Meat Council, in a statement.
Canada’s red meat industry estimated in September that China’s suspension of imports had cost the sector close to C$100 million in losses.
The resolution of the pork and beef spat came after both countries named new ambassadors. Cong Peiwu officially took over as China’s ambassador in Ottawa on Nov. 1, and Dominic Barton, a former business consultant, recently took over as Canada’s new envoy in Beijing.
Trudeau thanked Barton and the meat industry in a tweet for helping resolve the matter, confirming a statement from the Canadian Pork Council earlier on Tuesday hinting that the market had reopened.
“Canadian pork producers are pleased that the issues preventing the export of pork products to China have been resolved,” the pork council said in a statement.
($1 = 1.3155 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Kelsey Johnson, additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Ben Blanchard in Beijing.; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Richard Chang and Louise Heavens)