China’s ban on imports of Canadian pork and beef is now lifted, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Trudeau announced the lifting of the suspension that was put in place by China roughly four months after officials there said customs inspectors had found traces of a banned animal feed additive called ractopamine in a shipment of pork claiming to be from Canada.
However, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the export certificate used by the shipment was fake, suggesting the shipment wasn’t actually from Canada.
But the ban remained in place and has been costing Canadian agricultural producers, who export roughly 20 per cent of their pork to China, making it the second-largest market for Canadian pork products.
China is also the fifth-largest importer of Canadian beef products.
In a statement issued shortly after Trudeau’s tweet, the Canadian Meat Council praised the lifting of the ban and thanked the government as well as Canada’s new ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, for their work on the file.
“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.
“This is great news, especially on the eve of an industry-led mission to China that CMC has organized to meet with Chinese officials at all key ports where product lands to ensure a smooth operation moving forward.”
In an interview with Global News after the announcement, White said the Canadian meat industry has lost between $300 million and $500 million in exports due to China’s ban over the last four months.
While he said his organization had not yet been briefed on how the Canadian government got China to agree to lift the restrictions and would not be until later in the day, he says he suspects there were three factors at play.
“Certainly the appointment of Ambassador Barton — to have him on the ground and to have someone of his stature; the work that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did on the technical level to address some of the concerns that China had identified, and certainly the work that industry has been doing since the suspension was imposed with their counterparts in China to allay their concerns as well and to tighten up some of their internal procedures,” White said.
“I think just having a point person in Beijing for the Canadian government to go in and have high-level conversations and point to the work that industry has done, to point to the work that CFIA has done, I think it just made it a lot easier for Chinese officials to feel comfortable with where Canadian industry and government were on the file.”
Neither Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau or International Trade Minister Jim Carr were available for an interview on the matter, a spokesperson for Bibeau issued a joint statement for both ministers.
“We know the importance of the Chinese market to farm families and workers across Canada. We want to thank the Canadian Meat Council, the Pork Council, the Canadian Cattlemen, labour and provincial representatives for their sustained and constructive engagement in the government-industry-stakeholder working group that has met regularly since August,” that statement said.
“We will continue to work closely with beef and pork producers and processors in the coming days and weeks to ensure successful resumption of trade.”
The ban on June 25 came on the heels of successive restrictions placed on individual Canadian meat exports as tensions escalated over the spring and early summer between Canada and China over the detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in December 2018.
China detained two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — shortly after Meng’s detention and has refused to allow them access to lawyers while allowing only limited consular visits.
Meanwhile, Meng remains out on bail in Vancouver as she fights possible extradition to the United States, where authorities have charged her and her company with 23 counts of corporate espionage and skirting American sanctions on doing business with Iran.