State and Industry Cooperation Culminates With Test Sale of Northwest Wheat to China

“Governor Gary Locke has lauded cooperative efforts between the wheat industry and government officials, which culminated recently with an agreement by China to purchase a test shipment of 44,000 to 66,000 metric tons of Pacific Northwest wheat.This is another example of how a public-private cooperative effort achieved a common goal, Locke said. The potential here is phenomenal.For nearly 30 years, the Washington Wheat Commission has led efforts to open the Chinese market to Pacific Northwest wheat. That effort has received bi-partisan support by the state’s congressional delegation from Henry Jackson to the present day and governors from Dan Evans on.Locke said he addressed the issue when he met with People’s Republic of China President Jiang Zemin while on a trade mission to China in 1997. Locke praised the efforts of Tom Mick, CEO of the Wheat Commission; Chris Shaffer, president of U.S. Wheat Associates; and U.S. trade negotiators who secured the agreement with China.As we move into the 21st century, Locke said, public-private partnerships will be a key to our success not only in international trade but also in making all government more effective.The test shipment is the first under the China Trade Agreement signed in Seattle during the World Trade Organization meeting last December. China periodically buys wheat from the United States when domestic production falls short, but has not purchased Northwest wheat since the 1970s due to concern over a fungus that can occur in low levels in Pacific Northwest wheat. The new agreement sets tolerance levels for the fungus.Mick said most U.S. wheat exports to China now go through ports along the Gulf of Mexico. But the Northwest is closer to China, so shipping costs are lower. China has imported as much as 15.8 million metric tons in lean years. Washington State exports six to seven million metric tons annually, including shipments to Hong Kong, but not China.This puts us in the starting blocks, and when they need to import, we’re ready to go, he said. We’re ideally situated to meet their needs.Mick said the next step is for Congress to establish permanent normal trading relations with China as called for by the trade agreement.”