China has been slow to reduce trade barriers and government subsidies as part of its WTO commitments and will face greater scrutiny from the US, Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans said.
The US Department of Commerce will soon begin dispatching senior officials to Beijing each month to prod the Chinese government to cut barriers to US imports and curb the proliferation of pirated movies, music and clothes, Evans said in a telephone interview.
"We're going to be taking aggressive action," Evans said. "They need to be doing more. They need to be doing much more."
The Bush administration is stepping up scrutiny of China, which had a record US$103 billion trade surplus with the US last year, as part of an effort to help US manufacturers.
This week the department is hosting seven separate roundtable meetings with manufacturers in towns from Los Angeles to Columbus, Ohio, to try to come up with ways to help those companies.
Two million manufacturing workers have lost their jobs in the last two years, and the companies blame that in part on the surge of imports from China.
"The two most important issues facing manufacturing are health-care costs and China," said Frank Vargo, vice president for international affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, which represents 14,000 companies in the US.
Textile companies have been the most outspoken, saying the growth in imports from China since that country joined the WTO in Dec. 2001 means that the administration needs to do more to help domestic companies. Chinese sales of textiles to the US rose by 63 percent to US$3.15 billion last year.
"If our government doesn't move against China, they will legally take this entire market," said Cass Johnson, vice president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute.
His association, which rep-resents Cone Mills Corp, Dan River Inc and dozens of other US textile and apparel makers, plans to appeal to the Commerce Department to block Chinese imports of goods such as brassieres, gloves and dressing gowns "very soon," Johnson said.
Evans said it is too early to say whether Commerce would agree to block imports of those or other products. Still, he signaled that the administration was willing to help.
"We're going to make sure that our textile workers are not put in the position of having to fight illegal competition," Evans said. "We're going to make sure these countries play by the rules."