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Senior U.S. official on China trade resigns

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior American trade official in charge of handling disputes with China has left the U.S. Trade Representative's office to take a job in the private sector, his new employer said on Monday.

Tim Stratford stepped down as assistant U.S. trade representative for China affairs to take a job in the Beijing office of international law firm Covington & Burling, which employs a number of former U.S. trade officials.

"Tim's extensive experience in the legal, government and private sectors in Asia, as well as the professional relationships he has established over the years, will be a tremendous asset," Timothy Hester, chair of Covington's management committee, said in a statement.

Stratford's departure comes during a period of tense trade relations between the United States and China.

Beijing has complained of U.S. actions to restrict tire, steel and other imports from China, while the United States is pushing China to raise the value of its currency and to stop practices it says discriminate against U.S. firms.

Audrey Winter, deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for China, is expected to fill Stratford's slot until a permanent replacement is found.

Stratford was general counsel for General Motors' China operations before joining USTR in late 2005.

His 25 years of experience of working in China also included a stint as minister-counselor for economic affairs at the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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