By Associated Press - Friday, July 3, 2015

BEIJING (AP) - The United States and China want to increase cooperation in fighting wildlife trafficking and are working to end commercial ivory trading, a U.S. Cabinet secretary said Friday.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell met in Beijing with Vice Premier Wang Yang and Forestry Administration head Zhao Shucong. She said both officials expressed that the Chinese government intends to end ivory trade in China, the world’s top market for illegal ivory.

Critics have long argued that the legal ivory market in China has provided a cover for a thriving black market that has been blamed for the poaching of wild African elephants.

Jewell said Beijing has not set a timeline to ban the trade, but wants to close legal loopholes and step up law enforcement in fighting illegal ivory sales before a total ban is feasible.

The United States, also a major market for illegal wildlife products, is getting close to introducing new rules that would ban ivory trading with some exceptions such as documented antiques and ivory products with legal paperwork, Jewell said.

She said cooperation between the world’s two largest economies to fight wildlife trafficking is gaining interest and a sense of urgency from both governments and that it could be placed on the agenda when Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with President Barack Obama later this year.

“Both countries are active in addressing this issue,” she said.

Her agency also explored possibilities to help increase the number of Chinese visitors to the U.S. national parks, and Beijing was interested in learning from the United States about setting up China’s own national park system, Jewell said.

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