NEW YORK—China’s premier promised to resume Chinese imports of U.S. beef soon, calling it a sign of Beijing’s sincerity to improve commercial ties with the U.S.
Speaking to U.S. business groups in New York on Tuesday night, Premier Li Keqiang said China would soon allow imports of U.S. beef.
“We also recognize that the United States has very good beef, so why should we deny Chinese customers this choice?” Mr. Li said, in one of several less scripted moments during his remarks.
Though the premier didn’t give a specific timetable, trade groups have previously said imports may resume before the end of the year. China has had a ban in place on most U.S. beef imports since 2003, partly due to concerns over the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease, after a cow with the disease was found in Washington state .
The World Animal Health Organization considers the risk of the disease “negligible.” But bans on U.S. beef from countries like China and Brazil, which have built up their own livestock herds in recent years, persisted until this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and officials from Brazil announced an agreement in August to drop bans on each other’s beef earlier this year.
U.S. cattle producers this year have urged agriculture officials to make reopening export markets a top priority, as prices have tumbled to the lowest levels in six years because of rising domestic meat supplies.
Separately, Mr. Li noted that a Chinese bank had been authorized to serve as a clearinghouse in New York for transactions in the yuan. China’s central bank designated Bank of China as the clearing bank.
The service is intended to promote the use of the yuan internationally and follows the establishment of such clearing services in London and other major financial centers.
The announcements on beef and the clearing bank come amid rising complaints from U.S. businesses over what they say are Chinese policies that restrict access to China’s markets and flood global markets with Chinese goods.
Despite those complaints, Mr. Li said more than 90% of American companies are still making profits in China. Rising trade friction between the countries is inevitable as commercial relations between the two deepen, Mr. Li said.
“When there was no trade with the U.S., there were no trade disputes and not even direct flights,” he said. The new frictions, he said, aren’t the mainstream.
In his remarks, Premier Li didn’t stray from the government line about the economy. He said China would maintain a fairly high rate of growth—he recommitted to a target of at least 6.5%—because the country needs to create jobs and raise living standards.
Mr. Li, the No. 2 in the Chinese leadership, showed signs of spontaneity, parrying a question about the U.S. presidential election, in which China has frequently been criticized over its trade practices.
“No matter who gets elected in the presidential election, I believe that China’s ties will continue to grow steadily and in a positive direction,” he said.
The event was held in New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, which wasacquired by a Chinese company, Anbang Insurance Group Co., though it is operated by Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.
Mr. Li used the hotel as an example when asked how to ease mistrust between China and the U.S.
“As far as I know, this hotel was bought by a Chinese private company, managed by the U.S.,” he said. “I’m thinking I’m still staying at an America hotel.”
—Liyan Qi in Beijing and Kelsey Gee in Chicago contributed to this article.
Susan Littlefield is at the NASDA meeting in Lincoln and spoke with Director of Agriculture Greg Ibach. His comments will be on the air tomorrow.