Farmland Industries, the nations' largest farmer-owned cooperative, praised the U.S. House of Representatives' approval of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status of China.

"This is a defining moment, not only for China, but for the entire world," said H.D.Cleberg, president and chief executive officers of Farmland. "As Americans, we should be proud our representatives realized the significance of this trade issue and stepped up to take a world leadership role.

"This agreement is good for American farmers and ranchers, the Chinese people, in United States and the world," Cleberg said. "With open trade in China, we should see the advancement of democracy, human rights and personal freedom for the Chinese people while helping American businesses, farmers and ranchers."

China's membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the approval of PNTR has wide implications for American farmers. With one-fifth of the world's population, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates China can account for 37% of the future growth of the U.S. agriculture exports. China's accession to the WTO is potentially the largest market access for American agriculture in the past 50 years.

With PNTR approval, the United States will have the opportunity to realize the benefits of the U.S.-China accession agreement that lowers tariffs, comparable to other WTO member nations. For example, the current tariff of 45% on beef will plunge to 12% by 2004. China eventually will commit to allow imports of up to 7.3 million metric tons of U.S. wheat upon WTO accession. Without PNTR, the United States could not take advantage of the accession agreement, allowing U.S. competitors to reap the benefits of the growing Chinese market.

The U.S. Senate also must approve PNTR for China before the status will be granted. The Senate is expected to vote this summer.

Farmland has been a long-time supporter of free and fair trade. Since this past fall, the cooperative has been involved in a grass-roots educational trade campaign for its farmer-owners and employees.

"Through letters and phone calls, Farmland farmer-owners and employees helped convince representatives how important the Chinese market is to American farmers and ranchers," Cleberg said. "Now that the House of Representatives has approved PNTR for China, we are encouraging our and employees to let their senators know they support PNTR."

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