When leaders of the world’s largest agricultural products importer and the largest agricultural products exporter meet in constructive dialogue, only good outcomes are to be expected.

That’s the assessment of Philip Seng, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) president and CEO, after his participation in this week’s U.S./China High-Level Agricultural Symposium in Des Moines, IA. It was part of a five-day U.S. tour by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is positioned to be the next leader of China.

The symposium was built around the themes of food safety, food security and sustainability. At the conclusion, Chinese and U.S. representatives signed a five-year cooperative agreement that focuses on those three food-related areas in addition to biotechnology and transparency.

“So often, meetings of this nature are conducted to resolve disputes,” says Seng. “The tone of this meeting was forward-looking and underscores a spirit of cooperation. The atmosphere was favorable to the desired outcome of partnership and collaboration.”

Seng says that while there are trade issues yet to be resolved between the U.S. and China, this meeting appeared to be a different approach than the U.S. has taken with other trading partners.

“This was a constructive exchange that other countries may be viewing with circumspection and, possibly, a tinge of envy,” says Seng.

According to USDA, China became the top market for U.S. agricultural goods last year, purchasing $20 billion worth of U.S. agricultural exports. Those exports supported more than 160,000 American jobs last year across a variety of business sectors, according to the USDA.

In 2011, the China/Hong Kong region was the third largest market for U.S. pork exports, purchasing 483,323 metric tons (more than 1 billion lbs.) valued at $910 million, increases of 64% in volume and 96% in value over the prior year.

“China has 23% of the world’s population but only 9% of the arable land,” says Seng. “It will always need to import food, and American agriculture is positioned to truly establish a relationship based on trust, transparency and mutual benefit between the two countries.”