China lifts ban on import of British beef

15:33 | 29/06/2018 Cooperation

China has agreed to lift a ban on imports of British beef that was imposed over a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis in the 1990s, finance minister Philip Hammond said on Wednesday (Jun 27).

China has lifted a ban on importing British beef after more than 20 years, in a move the UK government hailed as the culmination of years of work - Photo: AFP

"Delighted that I have agreed with Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua that China will lift the BSE ban on British beef. This is great news for British farmers," he said on Twitter.

The agreement allows official market access negotiations to begin, said a government statement, adding that the process typically takes around three years.

The move comes after Prime Minister Theresa May's trade mission to China in January, when she said China had agreed to lift a ban on British beef exports within the next six months.

China is the world's fastest growing beef market, with imports last year of 700,000 tonnes, worth about US$3.3 billion.

Beef imports from Britain have been banned since the 1990s following outbreaks of BSE, commonly called mad cow disease.

British beef exports to China are expected to be worth US$328 million in the first five years, said the statement.

The deal comes as Britain prepares to leave the European Union next year, its biggest market for agricultural products.

"Today's announcement is a huge coup for British businesses who want to access global trading opportunities as we leave the European Union," said International Trade Secretary Liam Fox in the statement.

Other European countries ahead of Britain in getting access to China's beef market include Ireland, which now has full access, and France, which expects to be able to ship product by September this year.

Theo Reuters/Channelnewsasia