Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks to China's Premier Li Keqiang as French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet shakes hands with an unidentified person during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, June 25 2018. Picture: REUTERS
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks to China's Premier Li Keqiang as French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet shakes hands with an unidentified person during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, June 25 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Beijing — China signed an agreement on Monday with France on the importation beef from the European country.

The deal was on the hygiene and inspection requirements for French beef, according to a statement read out by an unidentified Chinese official who announced the agreement at the Great Hall of the People.

The deal follows China lifting its embargo on French beef last year, a ban that dated back to the mad-cow disease crisis in Europe two decades ago.

However, Beijing must certify processing plants before any meat can be shipped.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, speaking to reporters after the beef deal was signed at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, said that China was willing to further open its markets and to buy more French-produced agricultural goods.

Li also noted that the deal they had signed on beef exports to China will "let Chinese consumers very quickly consume more high quality French beef and other agricultural goods".

He gave no details.

France said "the export protocol for beef meat is an essential step in the opening of the market, prior to the granting of accreditation for exporting establishments", according to a French government statement.

China has loosened its longstanding restrictions in the past couple of years on beef imports from major suppliers to feed the appetite of the country’s growing middle class for eating steaks and ribs.

The world’s second-largest beef importer brought in almost 700,000 tonnes of beef in 2017, worth about $3.3bn, with volumes growing 20% from 2016, according to Chinese customs.

China and the European Union are locked in their own trade disputes with the US, and China has been seeking common ground with the European bloc in opposing what Beijing sees as US protectionism.

Reuters