The latest U.S.-China trade spat is over chicken

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The latest trade flame-up between China and the U.S. is over chicken. Yes, chicken.

The Obama administration has accused China of unfairly blocking U.S. poultry imports, the latest in a series of election-year trade disputes between Washington and Beijing.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization on Tuesday, arguing that China has failed to remove tariffs on U.S. chicken in violation of an earlier ruling by the trade body.

"These unfair and unjustified taxes are in direct violation of China's international commitments and tilt the playing field further against America's poultry farmers," said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Related: Cheap Chinese steel has claimed another victim

The WTO ruled in 2013 that China's duties of more than 50% on chicken imports violated its guidelines. The new U.S. complaint -- the 12th against China since 2009 -- argues that Beijing is still breaching key parts of the ruling.

In a statement, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Commerce said that "China regrets that the U.S. has requested further consultation" on the matter.

Trade tensions between the U.S. and China have risen considerably this year. Last month, U.S. Steel accused dozens of Chinese steel producers of breaking trade rules and asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate.

Related: U.S. Steel accuses China of stealing trade secrets

Meanwhile, Beijing has continued to support key exporters as China's economy has slowed down. Critics argue that state support allows Chinese producers to flood foreign markets with cheap goods and undercut local rivals.

Trade with China has also become a key issue in the U.S. presidential election.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has repeatedly used bombastic language to accuse Beijing of manipulating its currency and flouting trade rules in order to gain an unfair advantage over the U.S.

"We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that's what they're doing," Trump said last week at a rally.

-- Sophia Yan contributed reporting.

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