BEIJING—The United States is pushing China to drop a ban on U.S. poultry imports as part of trade talks, according to three sources briefed on the matter, eyeing a potential $600 million market for chicken feet and other parts.
Along with better access for genetically modified crops, the issue will be a top priority as U.S. Under Secretary of Agriculture Ted McKinney heads to Beijing this week as part of a U.S. trade delegation, the sources said.
China already imports about $1 billion of poultry a year from other countries and accounts for most of the world trade in chicken feet, a specialty dish in many regions and a popular snack throughout the country.
Washington wants Beijing to end the ban on U.S. products imposed in January 2015 after outbreaks of avian influenza. The industry believes it can quickly re-establish its position against competitors such as Brazil.
“Our birds are bigger. China has a preference for jumbo-sized paws,” said Sarah Li, Greater China director of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, referring to an industry name for chicken feet.
The talks come as the two sides near a deal that could see China cutting tariffs on car imports and buying more American farm goods in return for Washington lifting its ban on U.S. firms supplying Chinese telecoms firm ZTE.
U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to confirm the ZTE reprieve in a tweet late on May 25.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not respond to requests for comment on May 28, which was a national holiday.
China’s General Administration of Customs, which handles quarantine issues for agricultural imports, did not respond to a fax seeking comment on the issue. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs did not respond to a fax seeking comment.
‘Outdated’ Ban in Sights
Among the many issues that Washington wants resolved to improve market access and boost sales of its farm goods, poultry is “one of the top items,” said one of the sources who has been briefed on the matter.
Beijing removed anti-dumping tariffs on U.S. poultry in February after eight years, but its 2015 bird flu ban remains in place.
Washington has said those restrictions are no longer valid with the last case of a highly lethal form of the virus reported more than a year ago.
The United States, like other countries, also argues that such bans should be limited to the regions or states where a case is discovered.
Since the ban, some U.S. chicken feet are sold to Hong Kong or Vietnam, with the rest being rendered for use in animal feed, said the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council’s Li.
“We believe there are no technical concerns about [flu] outbreaks in the U.S.,” she said, citing positive feedback from Chinese officials after site inspections in the United States last summer.
The potential value of U.S. poultry exports to China is estimated at up to $600 million, according to one of the sources.
Access for poultry and other products has already been raised by Under Secretary of Agriculture McKinney on a China trip two weeks ago, according to a statement from the Customs administration released after the talks.
The Chinese regime, meanwhile, is still seeking access for its cooked poultry products in the U.S. market. Currently, China can export cooked poultry that has been processed in China, but the animals must be raised and slaughtered in Canada, Chile, or the United States.
Last July, the first shipment of cooked chicken from China arrived in the United States, according to a Washington Post report, but consumer groups expressed concerns about public health risks—given China’s poor record of food safety. Chicken from China would not be labeled, and Qingdao Nine-Alliance Group, the first Chinese exporter, did not specify the name brand the products were to be sold under, according to the report.
The USDA has since proposed a rule that would allow China-raised chicken into the United States. Citing former USDA officials, the Post reported that Chinese trade negotiators had demanded approval of Chinese poultry in exchange for opening markets to more U.S. goods.
By Dominique Patton. Epoch Times staff member Annie Wu contributed to this report.