U.S.-China talks to yield "incremental" progress: Vilsack

WASHINGTON Wed Dec 19, 2012 11:27am EST

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks about the drought during a press briefing at the White House in Washington July 18, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks about the drought during a press briefing at the White House in Washington July 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States expects only "incremental" progress on longstanding farm trade issues in high-level talks with China on Wednesday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

"Hopefully we'll be able to get some progress, but it's incremental. It's slow but sure," Vilsack told reporters after a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The United States has been pressing China before Wednesday's U.S-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) meeting to ease restrictions on imports of U.S. meat and horticultural products that the United States believes are not based on sound science.

"There's also the issues of biotechnology and the regulatory process," Vilsack said, referring to delays in Chinese approvals of new genetically modified crop varieties. "Our hope is that by the time the meeting ends we have progress on some of those fronts."

The JCCT is an annual forum for two countries to address trade and investment concerns.

The United States is pressing Beijing to take stronger action to fight piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. goods and end policies that discriminate against foreign firms or require them to transfer technology to do business in China.

China has its own list of concerns, which include U.S. restrictions on exports of high technology and its active use of anti-dumping and countervailing duties against imports of Chinese goods that Washington believes are unfairly priced.

A big Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Wang Qishan is in Washington for the talks. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank are leading the U.S. delegation.

Vilsack, who is also attending the talks, noted that they come at a moment of "transition" for both governments.

President Barack Obama is expected to bring in a new economic team for his second term, which begins in January.

Meanwhile, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping took helm of the Chinese Communist Party in November and will take over as head of state at March at the annual parliament meeting.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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