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USDA to Allow Chinese Poultry Imports in Sign of Trade Progress

Mike Dorning
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USDA to Allow Chinese Poultry Imports in Sign of Trade Progress

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is moving to allow imports of Chinese poultry in a sign of progress in ongoing trade talks between Washington and Beijing.

An unpublished USDA regulation allowing the shipments was posted on the Federal Register website and is scheduled to be published Friday. The new permission covers birds as well as poultry parts and products slaughtered in certified Chinese facilities, the document shows.

A compromise over poultry has been one of the areas of advanced discussions between the nations as they inch toward a partial trade deal. Last month, China said it was prepared to lift a ban on U.S. shipments that’s been in place since 2015 as part of a “Phase One” agreement. On Thursday, Xinhua reported China’s General Administration of Customs and Ministry of Agriculture are studying the removal of curbs on American supplies.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is required to determine equivalency with any country that wants to export regulated products to the U.S., said a USDA spokesperson, adding that FSIS conducted a review of China’s food safety inspection system and determined it is equivalent to its own system.

Chicken feet, a food pretty much ignored by Americans, are more popular in China than chicken breasts. The Asian country has had a goal of shipping cooked chicken to the U.S. that dates back to at least 2004. The country is currently allowed to send poultry to the U.S. that is slaughtered in America or certain other countries, but the new regulation would allow for processed products made from birds slaughtered in the Asian country.

Meanwhile, if Beijing were to lift its ban on American poultry, it could be a major win for U.S. farmers and meat processors. China prohibited U.S. poultry in 2015 due to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. Nearly all other nationwide bans following the outbreak have been lifted. Before 2015, U.S. shipments were subject to anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties.

The negotiations over poultry come at a time when African swine fever is destroying the hog herd in China, the world’s biggest pork consumer. The Asian nation has quickly ramped up its meat imports to help meet a protein supply gap. China this week lifted a ban on Canadian pork and beef that was imposed in June. It has also approved imports of Brazilian offal.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday said prices of meat, eggs and vegetables have risen too fast and affected people’s lives and called for securing supply of key products. Chicken is the cheapest substitute for pork.

(Updates to add chart and background in last two paragraphs)

--With assistance from Niu Shuping.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Dorning in Washington at mdorning@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Attwood at jattwood3@bloomberg.net, Atul Prakash, Jason Rogers

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