June 12, 2018 / 11:24 PM / 6 months ago

U.S. pursues action on poultry, beef, biotech crops in China trade talks - official

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. officials pressed China on issues related to poultry, beef and biotechnology in recent trade talks, a U.S. Department of Agriculture under secretary said on Tuesday, highlighting some of Washington’s priorities in the negotiations.

FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers, including one labelled "China Shipping," are stacked at the Paul W. Conley Container Terminal in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

The United States and China have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $150 billion (£112.1 billion) each as part of the conflict, in which U.S. President Donald Trump seeks to close the $335 billion annual U.S. goods and services trade deficit with China.

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

McKinney was part of the U.S. 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, and other officials.

Sources previously told Reuters the United States was pushing China to drop a ban on U.S. poultry imports and that the USDA 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.

In May 2017, China agreed to expand trade in U.S. beef as part of 100 days of trade talks.

“They of course were very focussed 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.”

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.

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 airplane and suddenly it just kind of vanishes into thin air.”

Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Chris Reese

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