Mutual interests in agricultural cooperation US focus – China policy paper by Iowa State University economist – Community News
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Mutual interests in agricultural cooperation US focus – China policy paper by Iowa State University economist

AMES, Iowa — The relationship between the United States and China may be at its lowest point in recent history, but the two countries continue to need each other to achieve strategic goals in agriculture, food production and food security.

This message is echoed in a new policy report, “Finding Firmer Ground: The role of Agricultural Cooperation in US-China Relations” by Wendong Zhang, an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University, and Dr. Minghao Li, assistant professor of economics, applied statistics, and international business at New Mexico State University, formerly with the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) in the state of Iowa. Their white paper was commissioned by the US Heartland China Association (USHCA) and the Carter Center with additional support from the Ford Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture, National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Zhang is a member of the USHCA’s Agriculture Committee.

“Finding Firmer Ground” recognizes threats to US-China relations amid growing mutual mistrust and an ongoing trade war. Still, it emphasizes the strong interests of both countries in pursuing mutual goals and the importance of maintaining channels through which their relationship can be restored.

“We thought about what the agricultural sector can do to improve relations between the US and China in the current situation and pave the way for cooperation despite the political rhetoric in both countries,” said Zhang, a native of China’s Shandong province. .

The paper outlines four areas of interdependence: improving global food security, meeting China’s demand for food quality, tackling climate change and pursuing technological progress.

“States in the American Heartland are critical stakeholders in the US-China trade relationship,” said Zhang, “As such, agricultural states and entities like the USHCA have an important mission to foster a positive, productive and beneficial relationship by providing channels for to create collaboration.”

Zhang and Li describe four channels as special opportunities for shared economic growth:

  • Normalize the trade relationship;

  • Reducing regulatory barriers and mutual mistrust;

  • Investing in infrastructure; and

  • Improve research collaboration.

The white paper is inspired by the inaugural US-China agricultural roundtable held in March 2021, where Zhang led a session on agricultural education. The dialogue was attended by former US Ambassador and President Emeritus of the World Food Prize, Kenneth Quinn.

Quinn, who contributed a foreword to the new white paper, has long been involved in efforts to advance agricultural cooperation between the United States and China. He tells about a crucial visit in 1980 to the Seed Science Center of the state of Iowa by Governor Xi Zhongxun (father of Chinese President Xi Jinping). At the time, Quinn, an officer in the State Department, was accompanying the first delegation of Chinese provincial governors to visit America after establishing diplomatic relations.

“Since that time, I’ve been involved in a number of exchanges that deepened the relationships that started then,” Quinn said. “Agricultural cooperation has been at the heart of these events and many more that have raised the level of exchange between our two countries.”

“I believe this impressive study by Drs. Zhang and Li add an important analytical element to the effort to continue the Sino-American-Iowan agricultural cooperation, which has such a long and illustrious history.”

Originally from the Chinese province of Shandong, Wendong Zhang co-founded a new China Ag Center within CARD with economist Dermot Hayes. One of the center’s projects is a new partnership with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences to sponsor shared educational exchanges.

“We want to encourage students and educators here and at partner institutions to learn more about each other and find potential areas to build goodwill and collaboration,” Zhang said.

He notes that China and the US recently announced that a virtual summit between Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden will be held before the end of the year. Zhang predicts that some of the issues addressed in the USHCA-Carter Center white paper will be topics to be addressed at the summit.