China and the US have begun trade talks ahead of President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington next week as the Chinese trade surplus surged to US$23.31 billion for the first quarter, up 41% on 2004. An early breakthrough in the talks, held in Washington under the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, saw China provisionally agree to open its markets to US beef exports. It also agreed to join WTO negotiations on allowing foreigners to bid for government contracts. Intellectual property rights is likely to receive particular attention during the talks, with a view to increased cooperation between the countries on enforcement. Speaking in Beijing, Commerce Minister Bo Xilai defended China's IPR record, pointing to improvements made in regulation and enforcement. He also disputed US claims that 80-90% of all Chinese software is pirated.