China to allow USA beef exports under new deal

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Beijing and Washington announced Friday an agreement giving United States beef, natural gas and certain financial services access to China's massive market in a deal highlighting the warm ties nurtured by their presidents.

It covers a range of long-standing barriers from agriculture to energy to the operation of American financial firms in China.

The market for beef in China is estimated to be worth $2.6 billion, a potential goldmine for Nebraska, the nation's top state for cattle on feed with $1.126 billion in beef exports past year alone.

The deadline is the same for United States beef imports to China, which have been banned since 2003 following a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters at the White House that the deal will help reduce the US trade deficit with China, which reached almost $350 billion previous year.

The Trump administration may have scored some political points with Beijing by referencing the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative - an economic plan unveiled by President Xi Jinping and to be discussed in a two-day meeting in Beijing starting Sunday.

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Trump railed against that deficit during his campaign and vowed to reduce it as President.

"This was pretty much a herculean accomplishment to get this done", Ross said, praising the administration's latest achievements. "Past foot-dragging means we won't celebrate until these promises are executed".

Speaking in Beijing on Friday, Zhu Guangyao, Chinese vice-finance minister, said Sino-US negotiators were in contact "24 hours a day" because of the complexity of the negotiations.

Huang Rihan, a researcher at the Centre for China and Globalisation in Beijing, said the agreement put an end to worries about a "trade war" between China and the US.

China agreed to give "full and prompt market access" to payments companies, like Mastercard Inc., Visa Inc. and American Express Co.

"China just agreed that the United States will be allowed to sell beef, and other major products, into China once again", the message posted on Twitter stated.

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He also said Trump deserved "a lot of credit" for improving once-tense trading ties with China. China's Ministry of Commerce and National Development and Reform Commission had already proposed draft regulations in December that would have opened up that market.

Beijing will issue bond underwriting and settlement licences to two United States financial institutions. But trade experts questioned its magnitude, and the limited agreement on 10 items joins a list of tectonic shifts between the world's two largest economies.

Under the agreement, the United States would welcome Chinese companies negotiating agreements to purchase US -produced liquefied natural gas. Chinese consumers tend to prefer dark meat and are happy to export the breast meat that Americans like. The talks with China are latest in a series of actions since Trump took office in January aimed at remaking US worldwide trade relations.

"This will only help raise the market sentiment, but not change anything materially in the foreseeable future", said Maggie Kuang, a Singapore-based analyst at BNEF. In response, many countries, including South Korea, Japan, Mexico and China, banned imports of USA beef.

One thing Thursday's trade deal did not address: USA poultry exports to China.

It remains unclear how far China will go to allow more American exports.

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An agreement is now in place to import beef from Minnesota and beyond. The United States also signaled it was eager to export more liquefied natural gas, saying China could negotiate any type of contract, including long-term contracts, with US suppliers. That's also the deadline for the U.S.to finalize rules for the importation of cooked chicken products from China.

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