China’s President Xi Jinping traveled to Spain on November 27th for a two-day trip, which marked the first time in 13 years that a Chinese head of state has visited the country. Importantly, the visit culminated in the signing of 18 new cooperation agreements between the two countries. Of particular note is a new agricultural agreement, which will see China increase its imports of Spanish pork products.
Spanish – Sino relations date back to the establishment of diplomatic interactions in 1973. Spain and China signed a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2005, which has helped deepen and expand the level of cooperation and trade between the countries. As a result, bilateral trade volumes have grown from just over 12 million euros in 1973, to more than 30 billion euros as of last year.
The new export deal is the result of two years of negotiation between the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the General Administration of Customs of China. While Spain previously exported pork to China, these products were limited to frozen or boneless meat, cured for a minimum of 313 days. Given that China consumes about half of the world’s pork products, any increased access to the Chinese market will be a boon for Spanish pig farmers.
According to La Interprofesional del Porcino de Capa Blanca Director, Alberto Herranz, the agreement is indicative of the “important work done for years by the Spanish Government and pig sector, which highlights the excellent relations between the two countries, and the work done by the sector in matters of quality improvement…it opens new opportunities for the national pig sector in the Asian country, in which the ‘Spain brand’ already enjoys wide recognition, thanks to the safety, quality, and variety of our products.”
This is just the latest good news for Spain’s thriving pork industry. Over the past five years, total production has increased by 20%. Last year alone the industry achieved turnover worth 15 billion euros. A huge part of this growth is the result of an uptick in international demand. Approximately three-quarters of Spanish pork products are exported, to more than 130 countries. As a result, Spain is now the third largest pork exporter in the world.
The deal could also help improve Spain’s trade deficit with China, which increased by 2.3% last year. China is Spain’s largest trading partner outside the European Union, with exports to China having increased by more than 28% last year. Given China’s hunger for pork products, an expansion of Spanish exports to the country could help reduce Spain’s 19.4-billion-euro trade deficit with its Asian partner.
More generally, this new export agreement is a sign of both Spain’s and China’s desire to bolster international trade, centred on a rules-based multilateral system. In a joint statement, issued after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez met with his Chinese counterpart, the two men stressed that they would “remain committed to building an open, balanced, and inclusive global economy that is in accordance with the WTO rules.”
Interestingly, Spain’s enthusiasm for closer economic ties with China does not extend to participation in its grand infrastructure development plan, known as the “Belt and Road Initiative”. While European countries such as Greece and Poland have signed on, Spain has expressed a preference for an EU-level initiative to improve connectivity with China.