Dear Mr. President,
We appreciate your administration's continued efforts to engage the People's Republic of China -- a vital U.S. trading partner -- on the topic of agricultural innovation and trade. Though some progress has been made, we request that agricultural biotechnology remain a top priority for the United States as we engage the Chinese through a series of meetings this fall, including the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in November.
Over the past three years, your administration has successfully secured commitments from Chinese officials to pursue a more normalized trading relationship and improve the approval process for products of agricultural biotechnology. Despite this very promising engagement, we continue to see a disconnect between Chinese commitments and action. For instance, in February, three out of 11 biotech products were approved, but China has issued no approvals since that time. The backlog continues to grow. Currently there are a total of 25 biotech products in the regulatory queue in China, including eight in the final stage. Four of these products have been under review since mid-2011.
We recognize that regulatory reform in China is complex and will require time. However, we are alarmed that recent amendments to China's biotech regulatory regime effectively provide less clarity and specificity around the approval process, rather than more transparency and accountability. This development appears to run counter to commitments made to the United States, and raises serious questions regarding China's intention to follow through on the spirit of the agreements made in September 2015 and June 2016.
China continues to be a very significant trading partner for U.S. agriculture. In 2015 China purchased $20.3 billion worth of American agricultural products, roughly $10.8 billion, or 54%, of which were biotech-derived plant products. Paving a path forward through continued high-level engagement is essential to facilitate a more positive trade environment and relationship, including for products of agricultural biotechnology. The U.S. agricultural value chain is committed to working with the United States and Chinese governments to support these efforts. Delayed approvals that limit access to innovative products and encumber trade only serve to undermine the progress made to date and significantly dampens innovation and trade affecting both the U.S. and Chinese economies.
As your team engages their Chinese counterparts in preparation for the JCCT, we ask that you place added focus on transitioning China's commitments into positive action. Thank you again for your efforts on behalf of U.S. agriculture and trade.