* US farm chief sees incremental progress in agriculture
* Business community optimistic on progress in some areas
* US says talks keep stability amid leadership transition
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, Dec 19 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
"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
The JCCT is an annual forum launched in 1983 for the two
countries to address trade and investment concerns.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce official Jamie Waterman said
agriculture was a key concern, on a U.S. laundry list that also
includes market access barriers, intellectual property rights
enforcement and government procurement preferences.
In agriculture, "the absence of product approvals for
roughly a year is a serious concern and has the potential to
create real challenges for China," he said.
The United States is also 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.
"We are cautiously optimistic that we will see progress in
at least some of these areas," said Waterman.
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.
The head of the Chinese delegation, Vice Premier Wang
Qishan, said this week's JCCT convenes in Washington amid a
complicated global economy with multiple factors pointing to
continue slower growth.
"Preserving growth, employment and stability will be the
chief duty of every country," said Wang. He urged the two powers
to use the talks to address mutual concerns and "avoid the
politicization of trade issues."
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Acting Commerce
Secretary Rebecca Blank are leading the U.S. delegation.
Kirk said that with ongoing leadership transitions in
Beijing and Washington it was important that working-level
officials hold up "the JCCT as one of the pillars of stability
in this relationship."
"The true success of this plenary will be judged by those
who rely on the JCCT to deliver measurable results that help
stabilize and enhance our trade and investment relationships,"
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.