US pushing China on beef, biotech in trade row talks, official reveals

Briefing highlights some of the Trump administration’s priorities as it attempts to reduce the US’ massive trade deficit with China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2018, 12:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2018, 12:38pm

US officials have pressed China on issues related to poultry, beef and biotechnology in recent trade talks, a US Department of Agriculture under secretary said on Tuesday, highlighting some of Washington’s priorities in the negotiations.

The United States and China have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to US$150 billion each as part of the conflict, in which US President Donald Trump seeks to close the US$335 billion annual US goods and services trade deficit with China.

For agricultural products, the United States focused on policy and regulatory issues in the talks, including “access for poultry, languishing biotechnology trait approvals” and other topics, said Ted McKinney, US Department of Agriculture under secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, on a conference call with reporters.

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McKinney was part of the US delegation at the talks in Beijing, which ended on June 3. The delegation also included Gregg Doud, the United States Trade Representative’s chief agricultural negotiator, plus other officials.

Sources previously told Reuters the United States was pushing China to drop a ban on US poultry imports and that the agriculture department was seeking better access for genetically modified crops into China.

Another issue discussed was “the 100-day plan and some of the things that have not been finished there, like the beef protocol”, McKinney said. He did not elaborate further.

China agreed in May last year to expand trade in US beef as part of 100 days of trade talks.

“They of course were very focused on numbers,” McKinney said of Chinese officials at the Beijing talks. “We countered by saying we’re not talking numbers until we talk through a lot of the policy and regulatory issues that frankly we saw as necessary to discuss to get at any numbers that either country might have pursued.”

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McKinney said he wants to hold more trade talks with China. The country is the world’s top importer of soybeans and a major buyer of other agricultural goods, such as the livestock feed sorghum.

“I don’t think that we got everything we wanted, but I think this is a continuation,” McKinney said.

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Doud, speaking at an agricultural event in Iowa last week, also said negotiations with China had a way to go.

“You think you agree upon something,” he told a gathering of pork producers. “Then you get on an aeroplane and suddenly it just kind of vanishes into thin air.”

In a separate development, the US Commerce Department on Tuesday announced another trade action involving Chinese imports, with producers of steel propane tanks accused of dumping and unfair subsidies.

The latest complaint, lodged by US manufacturers in Ohio and Tennessee, argues that China is dumping and unfairly subsidising the steel cylinders, which allegedly land on the US market at below cost, creating unfair competition for American companies, including two that filed a complaint with the Commerce Department.

The complaint says China subsidises production by 55 to 109 per cent through a variety of programmes including taxes, grants and export credits for nearly US$90 million in exports.

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If the Commerce Department determines China provides the industry with unfair subsidies and is dumping the products, it will impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties to make the prices similar to US competitors.

The case also alleges dumping of the steel tanks by Taiwan and Thailand at lower rates.

The United States imported a little over US$100 million in the propane cylinders from the three countries combined last year, according to the Commerce Department.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse