Washington: The United States announced on Thursday it was asking the World Trade Organisation to settle a dispute with China over Beijing's duties on US chicken imports.
      
Ratcheting up pressure in tense trade relations between the world's two largest economies, the Obama administration said it was taking the "next step" in its more than year-long dispute against China in an bid "to protect American jobs."
   
In September, the US asked the WTO to look at Beijing's duties on what had been a billion-dollar chicken trade before they were imposed.
   
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk called in a statement for a WTO dispute settlement panel "to address China's imposition of antidumping duties and countervailing duties on imports of US chicken 'broiler products' from the United States."
   
US government lawyers estimate the duties hit 90 percent of exporters in the sector, obliterating a market that had been worth around USD 1 billion before duties were announced in September 2010.
      
An estimated 300,000 US agricultural jobs are at risk. Consultations were held with Beijing "but were unable to resolve the dispute," the USTR said.
   
"The United States will not stand idly by while China appears to have misused its trade remedy laws and put American jobs at risk," Kirk said.
      
"We are serious about holding China accountable to its WTO commitments and ensuring that there is a level playing field for American businesses -- including our farmers."

(Agencies)