Ford will start exporting its Maverick sports utility vehicle to China under an agreement between Beijing and Washington intended to boost US exports, the automaker said on Friday.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that the SUVs, produced at a Ford plant in Kansas City, Missouri, will be priced at 288,000 yuan ($US34,850; €28,500) each and will be sold through more than 100 Ford brand retail dealers in China.

The policy will help Ford sell the SUV - called the Escape in the United States - in China at a more competitive price.

AP noted that the Maverick, introduced in China in July 2003, was previously sourced from Taiwan and sold in China for 428,000 yuan ($51,800; €42,300).

The new imports are part of a deal to buy more US products that China signed during a buying mission to the United States in November 2003, the report said, adding that China also promised to buy cars and auto parts from General Motors and DaimlerChrysler.

The Associated Press noted that the "buy USA" deal is part of efforts to trim the United States' soaring trade deficit with China, which last year hit $124 billion - an all-time high for any country - and is expected to reach US$140 billion (euro 109.4 billion) this year.

The preferential policy doesn't give the car makers a break on import tariffs, but allows them to bring in the cars without import permits, the report said.

While import permits in China aren't expensive, only a limited number of them are usually issued to trading companies, and consumers hoping to buy imported cars often acquire the permits on the black market where they can sell for as much as $12,000.

Ford said last year it could send 5,000 vehicles, mostly SUVs, to China under the agreement, AP added.

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