China could soon allow imports of beef from France, Germany and the Netherlands, which had been under embargo since 2001, the EU agriculture commissioner said Friday in Beijing.
China had banned imports of European and then US beef due to cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or “mad cow disease”.
The European Union has been working for years to ensure its meat is safe.
France reached a deal to lift the embargo on its beef during a visit to China by President Emmanuel Macron in January, with restrictions to be eased within six months.
China recently opened its market to beef from Ireland, the first EU country to benefit.
“I expect that more member states, particularly France, the Netherlands and Germany will be high on the list in China to open those markets,” EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan said Friday during a visit to China.
Health checks and verification were being carried out by the Chinese to finalise the lifting of the embargo.
“There is no specific commitment given in relation to a date,” Hogan said.
“But I’m very confident, based on the conversations I’ve had, and on the knowledge of the technical work that is done, that those member states certainly can expect to see some movement in the near future,” he said.
Beijing also resumed imports of US beef in June 2017 after a 14-year embargo.
China’s appetite for beef has risen over the past decade with an increase in living standards.
Brazil, Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand are currently the main suppliers of beef to China, accounting for almost 90 percent of its imports in 2016.
EU exports of agricultural products to China have doubled over the last five years from 6 to 12 billion euros ($7 to 14 billion).