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June 4, 2018

 

US hopes to end China's poultry import ban

 


The US is pushing China to drop a ban on US poultry imports as part of trade talks, according to three sources briefed on the matter, eyeing a potential US$600 million market for chicken feet and other parts.


Along with better access for genetically modified crops, the issue will be a top priority as US Under Secretary of Agriculture Ted McKinney heads to Beijing recently as part of a US trade delegation, the sources told Reuters.


According to the Reuters report, China already imports about US$1 billion of poultry a year from other countries and accounts for most of the world trade in chicken feet, a specialty dish in many regions and a popular snack throughout the country.


Washington wants Beijing to end the ban on US product imposed in January 2015 after outbreaks of avian influenza. The industry believes it can quickly re-establish its position against competitors such as Brazil.


"Our birds are bigger. China has a preference for jumbo-sized paws," said Sarah Li, Greater China director of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, referring to an industry name for chicken feet.


The talks come as the two sides near a deal that could see China cut tariffs on car imports and buy more American farm goods in return for Washington lifting its ban on US firms supplying Chinese telecoms gear maker ZTE Corp.


US President Donald Trump appeared to confirm the ZTE reprieve in a recent tweet, and agriculture is expected to be at the center of talks in Beijing, said another source.


Among the many issues that Washington wants resolved to improve market access and boost sales of its farm goods, poultry is "one of the top items", said one of the sources who has been briefed on the matter.


Beijing removed anti-dumping tariffs on US poultry in February after eight years, but its 2015 bird flu ban remains in place.


Washington has said those restrictions are no longer valid with the last case of a highly lethal form of the virus reported more than a year ago.


The US, like other countries, also argues that such bans should be limited to the regions or states where a case is discovered.


Since the ban, some US chicken feet are sold to Hong Kong or Vietnam, with the rest being rendered for use in animal feed, said the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council's Li.


"We believe there are no technical concerns about [flu] outbreaks in the US" she said, citing positive feedback from Chinese officials after site inspections in the US last summer.


The potential value of US exports to China is estimated at up to US$600 million, according to one of the sources.


Access for poultry and other products has already been raised by McKinney on a China trip, according to a statement from the Customs administration after the talks.


The push by Washington to enter China's poultry market comes as the Ministry of Commerce prepares to announce its preliminary findings on alleged dumping by top poultry exporter Brazil, expected in mid-June.


China meanwhile is still seeking access for its cooked poultry products in the US market. The USDA recognised the country's system as safe last summer but no cooked Chinese poultry has yet been shipped to the US.


- Reuters

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