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US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced the opening of a new Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) in Shenyang, the capital of northwest China’s international trade hub in Liaoning province.

Increased agricultural exports create important income opportunities for producers as well as the off-farm jobs that are so critical for strengthening economies in rural America, Vilsack said in a press statement.

“China is a vital market for US agricultural products, and this new office will help exporters take advantage of rising per capita incomes and steady economic growth in the region by raising the profile of American agricultural and food products.”

The opening of this Agricultural Trade Office on mainland China marks USDA’s expansion into the dynamic hub of northeast China and reflects the Administration’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double American exports in the next five years. It also represents a significant hallmark as the United States progresses from the major market centres of Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, to up-and-coming emerging city markets like Shenyang and Chengdu.

China is the world’s second largest economy behind the United States and the second largest market for US agricultural exports, importing roughly $13 billion (NZD$17.9 billion) worth of US agricultural products in fiscal year 2009.

In addition to continued demand for traditional products such as soybeans and cotton, there has also been strong demand for high-value and high-quality products such as meat and consumer-oriented products including wine and beer.

While US bulk commodities have fared well in this market—the market for US soybeans accounts for 9% of all US agricultural exports—US consumer-ready foods like nuts, dairy products and wine are also important exports.

Every billion dollars in agricultural exports supports over 8,000 jobs and generates an additional USD$1.4 billion in economic activity. USDA recently announced that it was raising the forecast for agricultural exports for Fiscal Year 2010 to USD$107.5 billion, the second highest year on record and an USD$11 billion increase over last year. Agriculture is one of the only major sectors of the American economy with a trade surplus – expected to be USD$30.5 billion this year.

Along with offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu, the Shenyang office is the fifth ATO on mainland China and the 102nd overseas office staffed by US Department of Agriculture in 82 countries around the world.

The primary mission of ATOs is to assist in marketing and promoting US agricultural, fish, and forestry products, and to assist in trade development in their respective regions. The offices provide a starting point for US companies, cooperatives, farmers, and processors interested in exporting. — Source US Department of Agriculture

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