Blog: Dean BestCalm must prevail as China, US dispute heats up

Dean Best | 17 July 2007

A top executive at Tyson Foods has sought to calm the frenzy surrounding China’s ban on certain meat imports from the US.

And a sense of calm will also be needed in Beijing and Washington to prevent the respective bans on Chinese and US products spiralling into a deeper trade dispute.

Speaking to just-food today (17 July), James Rice, the head of Tyson’s business in China, said sales are still going strong despite Beijing recently banning poultry from two of its plants over alleged salmonella contamination.

The bans enacted by Beijing over the weekend against Tyson’s fellow US meat processors Cargill and Sanderson Farms have added some fuel to an already fiery row between the two countries over food safety.The market displayed signs of jitters yesterday after the bans were announced at the weekend. Shares in Tyson, for instance, dipped 0.5%.

However, it would be wise for investors to follow Rice’s lead and use some perspective. The effect on Tyson’s share price is unlikely to be marked unless the bans are long-lived or hit the company’s other facilities.

Politicians on both sides also need to keep their calm. There have been hawkish voices coming out of Washington demanding the US government pursue serious trade sanctions against China after the meat import bans.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in China have accused the Western media of stoking the fears over food safety in China. With next year’s Beijing Olympics fast approaching, there is a danger that China will over-react in cracking down on food safety in a ham-fisted attempt to demonstrate to the world that it treats food safety with paramount importance, punishing undeserving businesses.

Food safety and protecting the health of consumers should be a central concern of all governments. However, politicians should not lose sight of the importance of trade to economic health. Food safety issues must be looked at with a calm head – not with the patriotic zeal currently on display in some quarters of Beijing and Washington.


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