UPDATE 4-U.S., China make progress on beef, software trade

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Wednesday, 15 December 2010 23:20 GMT

* China pledges action on U.S. beef, software concerns

* U.S. agriculture team to visit China in January

* Locke says expects more announcements when Hu visits (Updates throughout with meeting outcomes)

By Doug Palmer and Paul Eckert

WASHINGTON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - The United States said on Wednesday it welcomed Chinese commitments to a staged reopening of its market to U.S beef and to increase purchases of legal U.S. software.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the United States had made important progress on a number of agriculture and intellectual property rights concerns in meetings this week with Chinese officials.

"China reaffirms that on the basis on science principles, and on the basis of quarantine requirements of China, to resume the imports of American beef, both deboned and boned-in, under the age of 30 months," Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan said at the conclusion of two days of talks.

China will also actively fight copyright piracy by promoting "software legalization," and will submit a new revised offer to join the World Trade Organization's government procurement pact, he said.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said a U.S. team would visit China in early January for talks on the staged reintroduction of U.S. beef into China, adding he hoped for a clearer timetable from those talks.

Vilsack also welcomed a Chinese decision to lift a ban on poultry from in Idaho and Kentucky that had been imposed because of disease concerns.

The announcements came at the conclusion of the 21st U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, an annual bilateral forum to resolve trade irritants.

The two sides also signed seven agreements, including one to promote cooperation and information sharing regarding Chinese investment in the United States.

Other pacts covered inspection and quarantine procedures for soybeans, energy grid standards, water monitoring and trade development programs, he said.

MASSIVE U.S. TRADE DEFICIT

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said he expected further, broad trade deals when Chinese President Hu Jintao comes to Washington in January.

Some U.S. industry officials expect Hu to be accompanied by a large delegation of Chinese businesses announcing purchases of U.S. goods potentially worth tens of billions of dollars.

The two countries have a deep but far from trouble-free trading relationship. The United States is China's largest trading partner, while China is the United States' second largest behind Canada.

A major source of friction is the U.S. trade deficit with China, which has swelled 20 percent in 2010 after narrowing sharply during the global financial crisis. At its current pace, the trade gap with China could hit ${esc.dollar}270 billion this year, surpassing the record of ${esc.dollar}268 billion in 2008.

U.S. companies have a long list of complaints about Chinese market barriers and industrial policies that they say thwart them from selling more goods in the Chinese market.

U.S. officials said they made progress this week in areas ranging from government procurement and indigenous innovation to intellectual property rights protection, clean energy, agriculture and medical and pharmaceutical issues. [ID:nN14288545]

A major irritant -- U.S. concerns about China's "undervalued" yuan currency -- was not on the official agenda for this week's meeting but lurked in the background.

Wang met on Tuesday with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has been at the forefront of U.S. efforts to push China to let its currency rise more quickly in value as part of an effort to reduce global trade imbalances.

An effort in the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to pressure China to allow a faster appreciation of the yuan fizzled this week.

This likely killed the effort for this year, although supporters may mount an uphill effort to attach the measure to other legislation before the Senate adjourns for the year, which it hopes to do by week's end. (Editing by Will Dunham and Todd Eastham)

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