A top US trade envoy pressed China's commerce minister yesterday for Beijing's help in reviving faltering global trade talks, a US spokesman said.
US Trade Representative Susan Schwab also appealed to Commerce Minister Bo Xilai (薄熙來) for more action on opening Chinese markets and stamping out the country's rampant product piracy, said her spokesman, Sean Spicer.
The Commerce Ministry made no immediate comment on the meeting.
WTO talks were suspended indefinitely last month after the US, the EU and other major traders failed to agree on a plan to lower barriers to agricultural trade.
China is one of the world's biggest exporters and a huge producer of farm goods. Schwab emphasized the economic stakes for Beijing, and told Bo: "Maybe it's time for China to speak up more," Spicer said.
The Chinese minister made no commitments, but "there was a general agreement that market access is an extremely important component" for both the US and China, Spicer said.
During three hours of talks yesterday morning and then over lunch, Schwab and Bo also discussed US complaints about China's controls on its insurance, auto parts and tourism markets, and Beijing's unhappiness with US export controls on high-tech goods and tightened visa restrictions, Spicer said.
China's thriving black market in unlicensed copies of movies, music and other goods is a key issue for Washington. US officials say such intellectual property rights (IPR) violations cost producers billions of dollars a year in lost sales.
Beijing has launched numerous anti-piracy crackdowns and has toughened penalties, adding jail time for violators. But foreign trade groups say piracy is still widespread and that output of fake goods is rising along with overall growth.
"We still have serious problems with how they address IPR, but there is an acknowledgment that they are taking steps," Spicer said.
Schwab also was due to meet with Chinese insurance regulators.
Last week during a stop in Malaysia, Schwab said WTO talks could be stalled for years without a breakthrough in coming months.
Many WTO member nations want to complete negotiations this year so that a deal can be submitted to the US Congress before next July, when US President George W. Bush's "fast track" authority to propose a trade deal for a yes-or-no vote without amendments runs out.
Named after the Qatari capital where negotiations began in 2001, the Doha round of WTO talks is meant to forge a global trade treaty that will lower trade barriers, with particular emphasis on helping poorer countries develop their economies through export growth.
The US trade deficit with China hit a record-high US$202 billion last year, adding to strains with Washington. It is expected to exceed that this year.