U.S. to send delegation to China's Belt and Road summit

BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States will send a delegation led by White House adviser Matt Pottinger to a summit for China’s new Silk Road plan this weekend, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

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The announcement that a U.S. delegation would be coming to what is China’s biggest diplomatic event of the year coincides with the unveiling of an important trade deal between China and the United States.

The deal, the first tangible result of trade talks that began last month, will see China allow U.S imports of beef no later than July 16. By that deadline, the United States said it would issue a proposed rule to allow Chinese cooked poultry to enter U.S. markets.

China will also allow increased access for American financial firms.

In return, the United States said it “recognizes the importance” of the plan for a new Silk Road, known as the Belt and Road initiative, and would send a delegation to a conference on it in Beijing, delivering a symbolic boost to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign and economic policy.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Pottinger, special assistant to the president and the National Security Council’s senior director for East Asia, would be coming.

“We’ve said all along the Belt and Road is an open, inclusive initiative,” Geng told a daily news briefing. “We welcome all parties to participate.”

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The U.S. embassy in Beijing said U.S. Commerce Department official Alan Turley would be part of the delegation.

Despite espousing extensive infrastructure investment across Asia, Europe and beyond, the initiative has struggled to generate much traction from major Western economies despite an aggressive diplomatic effort and promotion.

Of the 29 visiting leaders attending what is formally called the Belt and Road Forum, only one - Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni - is from a G7 nation.

The forum is seen as one of China’s competing initiatives against the Obama administration’s regional trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which did not include China.

But U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the partnership in January, effectively killing the deal.

“The United States has realized the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative and will send its delegates to attend the summit,” vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao said in an earlier news briefing on Friday.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Philip Wen; Additional reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel