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Hong Kong reopens to all U.S. beef

Washington | Reuters –– Hong Kong has agreed to lift trade restrictions on certain types of U.S. beef, a move that should boost exports to what is already the fourth-largest export market for U.S. beef and beef products, the U.S. said Tuesday.

In 2003, Hong Kong banned all U.S. beef following the detection of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-positive animal in the U.S. It relaxed parts of the ban in 2005 and in 2013.

Under new export terms effective Tuesday, Hong Kong will now allow the import of the full range of U.S. beef and beef products, consistent with access prior to 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

Until now, only deboned beef from all cattle and certain bone-in beef from cattle under 30 months of age could be shipped from the U.S. to Hong Kong.

U.S. beef shipments to Hong Kong so far in 2014 have been 50,500 tonnes, with another 19,200 tonnes sold but not shipped, according to USDA data. In 2013, Hong Kong imported a record US$823 million in U.S. beef.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in 2013 granted the U.S. “negligible” risk status for BSE. There has never been a recorded case of BSE transmission to a human through American beef.

While Hong Kong is officially part of China, it serves as its own customs and quarantine administration zone and maintains its own rules and regulations.

Still listed by the OIE as having “controlled” risk status for BSE, Canada has had full access to Hong Kong’s beef market since late 2009.

Frozen bone-in and boneless beef were Canada’s sixth- and eighth-biggest exports to Hong Kong in 2013, valued at C$77 million and $50 million respectively. Beef was kept out of the top five by gold, mink furs, ginseng roots, aircraft and nickel.

Reporting for Reuters by Ros Krasny in Washington, D.C., with files from Network staff.

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