A high-level symposium on US-China relations, hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation, kicked off in the US Midwestern state of Iowa. The meetings focused on bilateral trade and cooperation, particularly in the areas of agriculture and food security.
Iowa is considered the United States’ bread basket, as it is a major agricultural production center. But it has also been described as holding a special place in the history of China-US relations.
Addressing the opening of the symposium, Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, noted the conference was taking place at the same venue that hosted then Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in 2012.
“And as we were walking in, I said to President Xi, ‘Your excellency, your visit and your connection to Iowa is such an interesting story that I’m going to commission an artwork to hang in this building to tell your story,'” remarked Quinn.
In 1985, while on a research trip as a local official in China, Xi Jinping stayed with a family in Iowa for two weeks. He paid Iowa another visit as Vice President in 2012.
Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey, said the relationship China has with Iowa continues to grow and has expanded into a significant number of agricultural partnerships.
“We have Iowa companies that have investments and markets in China, from feed companies to seed companies to equipment manufacturers as well,” explained the official.
Earlier this spring, Northey led a delegation to Guangxi and Guangdong in southern China. As Iowa is a major US producer of pork, livestock issues were a major focus during that session. But Northey noted farmers in his state have also shifted their production to meet a growing Chinese demand for soy.
“Typically, our No. 1 crop by far is corn. This year we planted about the same number of acres of soy beans as what we planted of corn, which is the most soy beans we planted in the United States, that I am aware of, ever. But a lot of that is to respond to the Chinese demand,” said Northey.
Back in April, Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump held their first face-to-face meeting in Florida. That meeting resulted in a 100-day joint action plan to address issues of mutual interest. As part of that plan, China will soon allow US beef imports for the first time in 14 years.
“It will help improve probably cattle prices locally for farmers because there will be more demand, and there might be a need to raise more cattle. So it’s gonna impact that, and that will reverberate back into the feed market,” said Grant Kimberly, a large-scale farm owner in Iowa.
On the sidelines of the forum in Iowa, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the World Food Prize Foundation have inked an agreement to promote sustainable development in agriculture. The two sides also intend to create more interpersonal exchanges, in addition to boosting joint research activities.
The World Food Prize Foundation was established by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman E. Borlaug in 1986 to honor those individuals whose breakthrough accomplishments have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The foundation is based in Des Moines, Iowa.
The symposium is the latest in a growing number of regional exchanges between China and the US. Since 2012, 25 Chinese provinces and cities have established trade and investment relationships with seven US states and cities.
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