UPDATE 1-Chinese position forced suspension of tech trade talks -U.S.
(Adds background on negotiations, quote from U.S. trade representative)
WASHINGTON, July 17 (Reuters) - The top U.S. trade official on Wednesday said talks aimed at cutting tariffs on a new generation of technology products have been suspended because of China's demand to exclude more than 100 products from the tariff cuts.
China is one of 20 World Trade Organization members, along with the United States and the 28-nation European Union, that have been negotiating for months to expand the 1996 Information Technology Agreement to include products ranging from flat-screen televisions to the latest semiconductors.
"The United States is extremely disappointed that it became necessary today to suspend negotiations to expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA)," U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a statement.
"Unfortunately, a diverse group of members participating in the negotiations determined that China's current position makes progress impossible at this stage," Froman said.
Negotiators had hoped to finish the deal this week, working from a draft list of 256 products targeted for tariff elimination. But apparently under pressure to protect domestic industries and preserve tariff revenues, China identified 148 "sensitive" products that it either wanted to exclude from tariff cuts or reserve for long tariff phase-outs.
"We are hopeful that China will carefully consider the concerns it heard this week from many of its negotiating partners, and revise its position in a way that will allow the prompt resumption of the negotiations," Froman said.
As a practical matter, the earliest that the talks could reconvene is September, trade experts said.
The original Information Technology Agreement pact eliminated tariffs on computers, semiconductors, software, fax machines, telephones and other information technology goods among member countries.
An expanded agreement could cover additional consumer goods such as flat-screen TVs, speakers and headsets as well as new types of semiconductors and other technology goods.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Sandra Maler, Gary Hill)