Chinese leader visits Iowa, Calif. to forge bonds

By Noaki Schwartz

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 16 2012 3:50 p.m. MST

Not everyone celebrated the vice president's arrival. The California Fair Trade Coalition, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that supports expanding trade while promoting economic justice, seized on the visit and issued a statement calling on Brown to "address China's predatory trade practices."

"The economic potential for trade with China is massive, but if they aren't forced to level the playing field, this can only be a losing proposition for U.S. workers," said coalition director Tim Robertson.

Much of Xi's visit, which began earlier this week in Washington, D.C., has been focused on agriculture. The strategic cooperation agreement signed by Han and Vilsack on Thursday afternoon outlines mutual goals and responsibilities of each nation and details how the U.S. and China will address issues of food safety, security, sustainability and trade that are common to both.

"It charts the course and gives us a guiding document that we can reference and, over time, refine and improve," said Scott Sindelar, the agricultural minister counselor at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, who attended the Des Moines conference. "The environment that we deal with is constantly changing and it's important that we have these kinds of reference points for the programs that we do have."

Holding the first ever symposium on agriculture at such a high level and in conjunction with the visit of Xi has provided an unprecedented opportunity for the agricultural economies of both nations, Sindelar said.

Vilsack also called the symposium a historic opportunity and said one of the strongest links in the countries' relationship is centered on agriculture. According to the USDA, the value of U.S. farm exports to China supported more than 160,000 American jobs last year across a variety of business sectors.

He also said the two nations will have to work together to help feed a growing global population.

"We have the responsibility and opportunity to work together to address the causes of global hunger that effect more than 925 million people. Current populations trends mean that we must increase agricultural production by 70 percent in the year 2050 to feed nearly 9 billion people," he said.

Chinese agriculture minister Han said the agreement provides key areas in which the two countries can promote steady development of agriculture, and he believes the discussions will deepen China-U.S. agricultural exchanges and cooperation.

"They will make our agricultural sectors better developed, rural areas more prosperous and our farmers better off," he said.

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