Tue, Nov 14, 2006 - Page 11 News List

US pushes for increase in exports to Chinese market

OPEN UP During a five-day visit to China, the US commerce secretary said that more needed to be done to open China to US goods and services

AFP , BEIJING

China's huge trade surplus with the US should be addressed through increased US exports to China and not protectionist moves by Washington, commerce chiefs from the two sides agreed in Beijing yesterday.

US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and his counterpart, Bo Xilai (薄熙來), offered an upbeat assessment of bilateral trade ties after meeting yesterday, despite continued growth in the political sensitive trade imbalance.

Both noted growing US exports to China and the need for more.

"Our exports to China are up 34 percent in 2006 on a year-to-date basis. We now export about US$50 billion of services and merchandise to China. The future should be focused on exporting to China," Gutierrez said.

"While China is more open than before, much progress must still be made to provide fair access to American exporters and businesses," he added.

Gutierrez arrived on Sunday for a five-day visit aimed at pushing for greater access to China's markets for US goods and halting the pirating of US copyrights.

The meeting came amid speculation over whether the new Democrat-led US Congress could get tougher on China over the trade imbalance.

Gutierrez, who is traveling with a delegation of 25 top US business leaders, said he is confident the relationship can stay on track.

"The initial signals and comments that we've heard from Congress have been very positive from the standpoint of supporting trade and trade agreements," Gutierrez said.

But he added, "We all have to be very aware of any steps that we take that would signal protectionism."

The trade gap was US$23 billion in September, up from US$22 billion in August, as imports from China rose 3.3 percent to a record US$27.6 billion, the department said last week.

US critics charge that China keeps its currency weak to gain an unfair trade advantage, allowing it to boost exports at the expense of US manufacturing jobs.

Bo denied China is trying to maintain a trade surplus, noting that rapidly developing China is expected to become the US's third-largest export market by next year.

He called the trade situation "relatively balanced," but added that China would "endeavor to balance trade" with the US.

Vice Premier Wu Yi (吳儀), who met later with Gutierrez, was less apologetic, suggesting US companies don't understand China's market.

"I hope that by enhancing your understanding about this market place, you can get better access into this market," she said.

"We welcome the exports of your country," she added.

The tone of Gutierrez's visit has so far differed markedly from one last week by EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, who bluntly called on China to remove trade barriers such as restrictions on entering key sectors and complex business procedures that inhibit outsiders.

Gutierrez yesterday also presided over the signing of sales agreements, including an agreement by Shenzhen Telling Telecom Development (天音通信) to buy 12 million phone handsets from Motorola next year in a deal worth US$1.6 billion, and a linkup between Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and China's biggest video distributor, Zoke Culture Group (中凱文化集團), to sell Fox DVD titles in China.

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