Nebraska’s Governor Pete Ricketts on beef exports to China

World Today

Pete Ricketts, governor of Nebraska.

An American commodity has staged a return to Chinese markets: beef. Though once banned because of fears over mad cow disease, Chinese officials recently lifted restrictions, reopening the market to U.S. farmers.

Correspondent Roee Ruttenberg discussed the move with Nebraska’s Governor, who said that under Trump, beef has once again become an important part of America’s trade with China.

Pete Ricketts, Governor of Nebraska: “Nebraska is the largest beef exporting state in the country. Every year we export about $1.1 billion and being able to have the opportunity to be able to serve the Chinese market is a big deal for us, and we think that folks in China will find that US beef, especially beef from Nebraska, is the best in the world. One of the things the President promised to do on the campaign trail was to be able to talk to China about opening up that market. He met with President Xi Jinping in April, and in June we got that market opened. So we’re ecstatic about the opportunity to be able to turn serve the Chinese market .”

Roee Ruttenberg: “You visited China in 2015, and again in 2016, you led a delegation. You met with Donald Trump-the-candidate in 2016, in both cases, lobbying for Nebraska beef. What did you say to both sides?”

Gov. Ricketts: “Well, in the case of then-candidate Trump, I was just describing to him the opportunities we had here in Nebraska with regards to the Chinese marketplace, and some of the barriers that we had countered, and asked for his help om being able to open up that market, and just in general as well helping with trade opportunities. And then with regard to Chinese officials, just again, encouraging them to open up the marketplace, to give us an opportunity to be able to serve the Chinese marketplace with our high-quality products, because I think it’s a benefit to Chinese consumers, and certainly we want again to find as many opportunities as we can to sell our beef.”

Ruttenberg: “The US was locked out of the Chinese beef market for 14 years. During that time, Chinese beef imports grew about forty-fold, to about a $2.5 billion market. You weren’t governor that entire time. You weren’t governor most of the time. What was it like as a Nebraskan being on the outside of that market?”

Gov. Ricketts: “Well obviously that was a huge missed opportunity and that’s why it’s so important now that the two countries of work it out so we can have access to the marketplace to be be able to sell our beef products in there because we see the Chinese market is getting bigger, right As you see a burgeoning middle class there, they are looking for those quality products like beef, and we’ve got the best in the world, so we want to help me meet that demand.”

Ruttenberg: “There are some in the Trump administration who have a beef with China, if you’ll pardon the pun. Are you worried about it adversely affecting everything that you’ve fought so hard to gain?”

Gov. Ricketts: “Well, what we want to do is support the Trump administration as they are pursuing their trade policies. We just want to be able to compete with everybody else in the world when it comes to say, for example, our beef. What we want to also make sure is that everybody knows how important these marketplaces are. China is the largest trading partner we have outside of North America. And so whatever disagreements we have, or things that we need to work out, we don’t want it to disrupt that overall trade relationship, which has been very beneficial to both countries.”