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US to send delegation to China's Belt and Road summit

Banners promoting the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation are placed between skyscrapers in the central business district in Beijing, May 11, 2017. Photo: AP

The US 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.

The announcement that a US 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 US.

The deal, the first tangible result of trade talks that began last month, will see China allow US imports of beef no later than July 16. By that deadline, the US said that it would issue a proposed rule to allow Chinese cooked poultry to enter US markets.
China will also allow increased access for American financial firms.

In return, the US said that 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."

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

"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.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a broad road in building "a community of common destiny for mankind," a goal that requires efforts from all countries, Zhu said.

The summit 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 US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the partnership in January, effectively killing the deal.

Friday's announcement has raised questions about whether the US may reverse former President Obama's decision to stay away from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and join. The bank is hosting a special press conference on Saturday to announce new members.

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