Washington (AFP) Dec 16, 2010
A leading US senator who has urged Beijing to reopen its markets to US beef said Thursday he was disappointed that high-level trade talks with China had only yielded an agreement to resume negotiations.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said he was "cautiously optimistic" about progress on other fronts, including protecting US intellectual property and opening Chinese government procurement to greater competition.
"But it's disappointing that with beef, all we have is an agreement to start talking again in the new year," said Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade issues.
Top officials from the world's two largest economies met for two days in Washington to try to iron out persistent tensions -- including over the value of China's currency, which the United States says is artificially low.
President Barack Obama's administration, which has been hit hard by economic worries, offered an upbeat take on the talks and highlighted China's willingness to restart talks on resuming US beef imports.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pointed to "progress" over US beef, which was banned by China among other countries in 2003 over concerns about mad-cow disease.
"Technical talks will resume as soon as possible with the goal of reopening China's market in early 2011," Vilsack said.
Republican Senator Mike Johanns, who has called on China, Japan, and South Korea to allow US beef freer access to their markets, said it was time for China "to begin living up to its WTO (World Trade Organization) obligations."
"Sending another technical team to China certainly won't hurt, but until Chinese ports actually start accepting shipments of US beef, this agreement will give cattlemen little solace," he said.
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