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Cablegate: 8th U.S.-China High Level Joint Biotechnology Working Group

DE RUEHBJ #3393/01 3520855
O 180855Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

SUBJECT: 8th U.S.-China High Level Joint Biotechnology Working Group
(BWG) Meeting in Beijing

(U) This cable is Sensitive But Unclassified. Please protect

1. (SBU) On September 16, government officials and technical experts
convened the 8th meeting of the U.S.-China High Level Joint
Biotechnology Working Group (BWG) in Beijing. Discussion focused
on: 1) affirming U.S. and Chinese joint interests in agricultural
biotechnology; 2) recognizing the potential this technology to
address current and future global agricultural and climate
challenges; and 3) encouraging joint collaboration and global
leadership in the development and use of products produced using
agricultural biotechnology. Discussions were frank, informative and
constructive, and ended on a promising note for future exchange and
technical collaboration. END SUMMARY.

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Opening Session

2. (SBU) The United States and China convened the 8th meeting of the
U.S.-China High Level Joint Biotechnology Working Group (BWG) in
Beijing, September 16, 2009. China's Ministry of Agriculture hosted
the meeting. Jim Miller, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign
Agricultural Services (FFAS), led the U.S. delegation, presenting
opening remarks and chairing the morning session. Michael
Schechtman, Biotechnology Coordinator for the Office of the
Secretary, USDA/Agricultural Research Services, chaired the
afternoon session. The U.S. delegation was comprised of
representatives from USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and
the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); the
Office of the Secretary, USDA; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA); and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Niu Dun, Vice
Minister, Minister of Agriculture (MOA), led the Chinese delegation
at the morning session. The Chinese delegation included
representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Chinese
Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), China Agricultural
University, Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), Department for
Supervision on Plant Quarantine (AQSIQ), and the Ministry of
Health's (MOH) Center for Disease Control (CDC).

3. (SBU) Vice Minister Niu opened the BWG by emphasizing the
important role the BWG played in maintaining trade and enhancing
mutual understanding and trust between China and the United States.
He spoke of the overall trade picture between the U.S. and China,
and the significant challenges we face. He acknowledged the
importance of ongoing U.S.-China cooperation on agricultural
biotechnology and the role of agriculture in China to address food
and energy security, social welfare issues, and climate change. Niu
proposed the United States and China strengthen cooperation and
exchange through an expansion of research and development
collaboration on agricultural biotechnology.

4. (SBU) Niu also noted complaints received from Chinese soybean
farmers about the large volumes of biotech soybean imports from the
United States (USD 7.0 billion in 2008). He commented that U.S.
companies, including Monsanto, were earning "fat profits" from this
trade and were only interested in expanding their market share. He
implied that the technology providers were unwilling to work
collaboratively with Chinese research institutions to develop
China's biotechnology industry and said if this were the case, the
situation was unacceptable. Niu stated that reciprocal and mutual
cooperation in biotech will advance research and development to the
benefit of both the United States and China.

5. (SBU) U/S Miller noted that both countries have similar goals and
interests and encouraged China and the United States to work
together bilaterally and as global partners to address the global
challenges of food security, sustainability and climate change. He
spoke of the role of biotechnology as one important tool to help
address these issues, of our joint role as world leaders in the use
of the technology, and of the increasing convergence of U.S. and
Chinese interests around the development, regulation, and use of the
technology, especially in view of China's recently announced policy
for "Accelerating the Development of Bioindustry". Recognizing

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Niu's call for greater cooperation, the Under Secretary agreed in
principle to increased U.S.-China engagement and collaboration.

6. (SBU) The Chinese closed the morning session by emphasizing the
significant role biotechnology has played in addressing plant pests
and diseases in China and in improving the quality of crops,
something conventional agriculture has been unable to address
adequately. China places great emphasis on the development of new
biotech products that could improve Chinese agricultural
productivity. That said, MOA noted that it would take a "step-wise
and steady approach" to approving new biotech products. MOA
suggested incorporating more collaboration at all levels of the BWG
agenda would expand fruitful bilateral cooperation.

7. (SBU) Despite a few surprising remarks from Niu, the morning
session was informative and relatively friendly. (In addition to
the "fat profit" comment, he suggested that Monsanto should permit
China to use its Round-Up Ready I technology "free-of-charge" in the
waning years of the patent and claimed that the USG could control
Monsanto policy). It was made clear that China seeks closer
collaboration in the field of biotechnology. How and to what extent
remains to be learned. Niu noted that his and U/S Miller's
participation enhanced the dialogue and put pressure on the group to
find solutions and not simply discuss concerns.

China and U.S. Collaboration on Biotechnology

8. (SBU) The afternoon session proceeded at the working level with
further discussion of future U.S.-China cooperation. The Chinese
suggested increased collaboration in fundamental and field research
and that future collaboration would involve increased activity not
only between government scientists but also between academics and
the private sector as well. Several issues that would need to be
addressed, e.g., intellectual property concerns and the ability to
involve independent players from academia and the private sector,
were noted.

9. (SBU) In reply to a U.S. request, Chinese officials promised to
provide a written proposal of their suggestions for further
collaboration and cooperation. The U.S. agreed to work with the
Chinese to find an appropriate model for collaboration. Both sides
recognized that working out the details of increased collaboration
would be challenging. Points of contact, one at the U.S.
Embassy/Beijing and one at the Ministry of Agriculture, were
identified to ensure and facilitate communication.

Recent Approvals and Products in the Queue

10. (SBU) The United States and China exchanged information on the
status of research on biotech products and product approvals in
general in each country, and discussed the importance for continuing
efforts to ensure regulations keep up with the increasing number and
complexity of products. However, China was unprepared to respond to
specific U.S. inquiries about products under development. Chinese
officials noted that many domestic agencies are involved in the
development of biotech products; good progress is being made on the
development of biotech corn, soy, and rice, with some products in
the field trial stage while others are undergoing safety
assessments. China hopes to accelerate the development and
commercialization of biotech products but many obstacles exist.

11. (SBU) China was unable to provide any information on the status
of U.S. products up for renewal, many of which expire in December
2009. China stated that if there are no announcements to the
contrary, renewals will be carried out in the same manner as in the
past. MOA noted that additional information may also be found on
their web site. In response to further prodding about the status of
pending products, China agreed to provide information after the
meeting but also said applicants would be provided with official
responses, including requests for additional information, throughout
the review process.

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Handling of Stacked Events

12. (SBU) The United States noted the increased use of products
containing multiple biotech traits (aka stacks) and discussed the
regulatory challenges they pose. MOA noted particular interest in
learning more about products with new traits for drought tolerance,
nutritional modifications, and insect resistance, among others. MOA
stated that it is studying how to best determine the safety of
stacks. To this end, MOA is looking at approaches taken by the
United States and others, as well as consulting with other
ministries in China and with consumers. MOA noted that because
consumers lack understanding about the technology and are worried
about Bt crops, China would be required to conduct considerable risk
analysis on stacks to assure the public. China also indicated
products would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and noted in
addition that products containing a large number of stacked events
could pose consumer concerns.

Navigating the Global Regulatory Process and Building on Experiences
to Streamline the Regulatory Processes

13. (SBU) U.S. and Chinese officials discussed the evolving status
of each country's biotech industry: China perhaps moving toward
becoming an exporter of biotech agricultural products and the U.S.
moving toward becoming an importer; of the new obligations this
evolution would place on both countries to avoid trade disruptions;
and the lessons we can learn from each other. The Chinese were
non-committal about China's export future.

14. (SBU) The United States noted the importance of seeking
authorizations in important foreign markets for biotech products in
development, even if exports are not intended, so as to avoid
possible trade issues. U.S. officials offered to facilitate
authorization requests for Chinese products into the U.S. regulatory
system. They also offered to provide, informally and regulator-to
regulator, additional technical information on products under review
in the United States to facilitate reviews by Chinese authorities,
once those products officially begin review in China.

15. (SBU) MOA acknowledged the importance but complexity of
streamlining the regulatory review process. For example, it would
require making adjustments and changes to existing regulations,
which would involve considerable coordination within the government.
MOA is studying this idea, and agreed to take the conclusions of
this discussion into account.

Cooperation in International Fora

16. (SBU) The United States stressed that the increasing convergence
of our interests would make it possible and desirable for increased
cooperation and collaboration in international forums where
biotechnology policies and regulations are being developed, such as
the upcoming APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural
Biotechnology (HLPDAB) Steering Group meeting and in discussions
related to the Biosafety Protocol (BSP).

17. (SBU) MOA officials were unfamiliar with the HLPDAB Steering
Group but agreed to convey our points to the relevant officials.
Regarding the BSP, MOA briefed the meeting on the status of the
liability and redress and 18.2a discussions, including the divergent
objectives of varying Parties, while APHIS briefed on activities
related to the Road Map Sub-Group of the for Ad Hoc Technical
Experts Group under the BSP. MOA said it would analyze the impact
of the Road Map and agreed to communicate our points to the Ministry
of Environment. MOA officials acknowledged the benefit of the U.S.
and China keeping each other informed on the various activities of
the BSP. MOA officials also noted that they are closely following
international dialogue and work within international organizations,
specifically mentioning labeling discussions within Codex

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18. (SBU) The United States closed the discussion by recognizing the
importance of previous and ongoing collaborative biotech-related
exchanges between China and the United States exemplified by the
U.S. Trade and Development Authority (TDA) funded activities, first
initiated in 2006. U.S. officials noted that Phase III activities
started earlier in the week in Beijing and are scheduled to continue
over the next few years and reviewed upcoming activities. Officials
also noted the science policy fellowships being managed by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. (Two recently selected Borlaug Scholars
participated in the BWG discussions.) MOA noted with appreciation
the importance these activities have played in training the
technical and regulatory staff. MOA made several suggestions to
upcoming TDA activities that U.S. officials said they would

Conclusion of BWG

19. (SBU) At the conclusion of the meeting, both sides reaffirmed
their support for the BWG and looked forward to the next meeting in
the United States, dates to be determined later. Both sides
affirmed their support for increased collaboration on agricultural
biotechnology and MOA promised to provide a written proposal on
future collaboration. The United States noted its hope that China
would increase its engagement on agricultural biotechnology in
international fora.

Related Meetings

20. (SBU) Members of the U.S. delegation participated in the Trade
Development Agency Workshop on Combined Events that was held
September 12-15. The workshop was organized by Dasun Consulting
with participating government and industry officials and experts
from Beijing, other cities in China, the United States, and Canada.
Based on initial feedback, the workshop was well received, providing
the technical detail and an exchange of information that MOA
officials requested.

21. (SBU) On September 15, officials and technical experts from the
United States and China convened the Sixth Meeting of the U.S.-China
Biotechnology Technical Working Group on Food and Environmental
Safety (TWG). Discussion focused on scientific and regulatory
issues relevant to genetically engineered plants and the foods
derived from them. Included in this discussion was an explanation
of both the U.S. and Chinese approaches to the low level occurrence
in commerce of unauthorized genetically engineered plants and
material derived from such plants. The discussions were very
informative and open, with the Chinese delegation presenting
detailed information about their development of Bt rice. The formal
TWG meeting was preceded by a field trip to Shanghai to discuss the
development of transgenic goats, environmental safety assessment of
biotech products, and database and detection methods for biotech


22. (SBU) Participants and contacts for the BWG included: U.S.
Delegation: Jim Miller, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign
Agricultural Services, USDA; William Westman, Agricultural
Counselor, Foreign Agricultural Service in Beijing, USDA; Michael
Schechtman, Biotechnology Coordinator for the Office of the
Secretary, Agricultural Research Service, USDA; Beverly Simmons,
Associate Deputy Administrator for Emerging and International
Programs, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Services, USDA; Ed Porter, Deputy Director, New
Technologies and Production Methods Division, Foreign Agricultural
Service, USDA; Dave Heron, Assistant Director, Policy Coordination
Programs, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Services, USDA; Elizabeth Jones, International Trade
Specialist, New Technologies and Production Methods Division,

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Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA; Wade Sheppard, Senior Advisor
for North Asia, Office of Country and Regional Affairs, Foreign
Agricultural Service, USDA; Joan Hurst, China Desk Officer, Office
of Country and Regional Affairs, Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA;
Mark Petry, Agricultural Attache, Foreign Agricultural Service in
Beijing, USDA; Jason Dietz, Science Policy Analyst, Office of
Regulations, Policy and Social Services, Center for Food Safety and
Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Chris Wozniak,
Biotechnology Special Assistant, Office of Pesticide Programs,
Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division, Environmental
Protection Agency; Frederick Thomas, Agricultural Science Officer,
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Beijing, USDA; Irene
Chan, Assistant Country Director, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
in Beijing; and Karen Green, Biotechnologist, Environmental Risk
Analysis Program, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, Animal and
Plant Health Inspection Services, USDA. Chinese Delegation: Niu
Dun, Vice Minister, Minister of Agriculture (MOA); Jinming Bai,
Director General, Department of Science and Technology and
Education; Shi Yanquan, Deputy Director General, Department of
Science and Technology and Education, MOA; Xie Jianmin, Deputy
Director General, Department of International Cooperation, MOA; Duan
Wade, Director General, Center for Science and Technology
Department, MOA; Wu Kongming, Director and Professor, Institute of
Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CASS);
Jia Shirong, Professor, Biotechnology Research Institute, CASS; Li
Xinhai, Professor, Crop Research Institute, CASS; Huang Kunlun,
Professor, China Agricultural University; Wang Delu, Department of
WTO Affairs, Ministry of Commerce; Xu Qiang, Department of
Supervision on Plant Quarantine, AQSIQ; Wei Zhenglin, Director,
Department of International Cooperation; Xu Yubo, Project Officer,
Department of International Cooperation, MOA; Zou Ping, Director,
Department of Science, Technology and Education, MOA; Shao
Jiancheng, Deputy Director, Department of Science, Technology and
Education, MOA; Li Ning, Director, Center for Science, Technology
Development, MOA; Sun Junli, Project Officer, Department of Science,
Technology and Education, MOA, and Zhang Wei, Interpreter, Center of
International Cooperation Service, MOA.


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