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US Beef to China?

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Baucus optimistic about beef trade with China
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ Sen. Max Baucus said Wednesday that he's optimistic China will resume beef trade with the United States soon.

The Democrat, speaking to reporters in a conference call from China, said he was also buoyed by the prospect that China could purchase more wheat from the Pacific Northwest, including wheat raised in Montana.

Baucus is in the midst of a trade mission to China and India. He's leading a small group of Montana business leaders on the trip, with a goal of opening new trade opportunities for goods and services originating from the state.

Creating contacts and building relationships in China in particular is important, Baucus said, as that country's economy continues to grow. He said China is on the verge of being a key player on the world stage.

``Because the world is so intensely competitive, the more we understand by visiting these places, the better,'' Baucus said.

The issue of resuming beef trade with the United States was brought up with a number of Chinese leaders, he said, including Premier Wen Jiabao.

Baucus said he was told ``informally by officials along the way that it's going to happen, and it's going to happen soon.''

Dozens of countries banned U.S. beef after a cow in Washington state turned up with mad cow disease in December 2003; many have since lifted their bans, if only partially. Japan last month agreed to resume limited beef shipments, with restrictions.

The trade trip is expected to run through Monday, according to Baucus' office.

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