Last week Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled to Washington to meet with President Barack Obama. As with all meetings of two heads of State, only each country’s top priorities were on the agenda–issues like cyber security, climate change, and the continued instability in Afganistan–so conservationists around the world took note when wildlife trafficking (and, specifically, the elephant ivory trade) made the list. In fact, ivory trade was included in a joint statement from both President Obama and President Xi.
In their statement, China and the United States recognized the “urgency” of combatting wildlife trafficking and promised to cooperate to craft a “comprehensive” effort to combat it. Most significantly, the statement said: “The United States and China commit to enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, and to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.”*
So, how important is this and what, exactly, does it mean? Here are the three things you need to know: