Beijing Lifts U.S. Poultry Ban

China will lift the ban on poultry exports from U.S. and streamline the process for medical equipment exports after intense talks between U.S. and Chinese trade delegations.

YORBA LINDA, Calif. (AP) -- China said Tuesday it will lift a ban on poultry exports from six U.S. states and streamline the process for exports of medical equipment after a day of intense talks between American and Chinese trade delegations.

The announcements came at the conclusion of the annual meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade hosted by the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace to honor Nixon's role in opening China to the world three decades ago.

Since that time, annual two-way trade between the two nations has grown from $4 billion to $387 billion and China is now the United States' second-largest trade partner, said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.

"You can see the real outcome of all the work and all the engagement of the U.S. team and the Chinese team," he said. "And as important as this meeting is, it's just the first step in what is probably the world's most important relationship."

Also participating in the daylong session were U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming.

The meeting comes at a turbulent time for the United States, as it struggles with a weakening economy and the second-largest Chinese trade deficit on record -- $24.9 billion in July. On Monday, China also appealed a ruling against it by the World Trade Organization in China's dispute with the United States, the European Union and Canada over car parts.

The WTO ruled earlier that China was breaking trade rules by taxing imports of auto parts at the same rate as foreign-made finished cars.

But those tensions were forgotten Tuesday as Qishan announced the end of the poultry export ban for Connecticut, New York, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Nebraska, effective immediately. The ban still applies to Arkansas and Virginia.

The restrictions were enacted after low-pathogen avian flu was found in the states in recent years. Low-pathogen avian flu poses no threat to human health, unlike its more virulent cousin.

The U.S. exported more than $600 million in poultry products to China last year.

Both nations also agreed on a streamlined process for exporting U.S. medical equipment in China, which Gutierrez called the most significant achievement of the talks. The U.S. exported about $859 million in medical devices to China in 2007 -- and the reduction in red tape promises to cut approval time for those devices in half.

China also agreed to update its drug reimbursement lists so U.S. companies can sell more advanced medications to Chinese hospitals and consumers.

For its part, the U.S. agreed to impose antidumping and countervailing duties on Chinese goods only when necessary and will work to facilitate the process for Chinese who apply for U.S. visas, Wang said.

"Over the past three decades, China has scored great achievements in our economic and social development," he said. "With China's reform and opening up, there has also been remarkable progress in China-U.S. business ties. We are each others' important business and trading partners."

Wang and other Chinese officials did not take questions after reading from prepared statements.

Gutierrez, however, said concerns about the U.S. economy lent an urgency to the talks and may have helped push through some of the agreements. He said that despite the United States' trade deficit with China, overall exports were a bright spot in the U.S. economic outlook.

"In the second quarter, if it weren't for exports we would have had a very difficult quarter," he said, noting that China has a $65 billion export market.

One area that eluded the two nations, however, was a final agreement on exports of U.S. beef to China. China agreed to exports of U.S. beef from cows under the age of 30 months, but the U.S. has insisted that China accept all beef from cows of all ages as expected under international standards.

That issue will be discussed further in future meetings between U.S. and Chinese officials, Gutierrez said.

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