KANSAS CITY (B)--The U.S. meat industry welcomed China's recent publication of rules governing meat exports to the country, but contends it falls short of implementation of the bilateral agricultural agreement signed in 1999. Publication of the rules is a first step, not the final chapter in this critical process for U.S. meat producers, industry groups said.

Representatives of the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, U.S. Meat Export Federation and American Meat Institute made the comments after recent notification from the Chinese government that the rules were in place.

The groups said the rules were only one piece of a larger trade deal that must include congressional approval of permanent normal trade relations with China to gain the full benefit of increased exports to that country.

Until reports begin arriving from Chinese ports, the groups said, it would withhold judgment on the practical impact of the rules. The true value of the agreement will depend on how widely the rules were circulated to China's importers and port inspectors, they said.

What's more, to a certain extent, it will rest on how much of the uncertainty surrounding the import requirements have been eliminated, with the real test being whether there is an uninterrupted flow of product to China, they said.

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