The trade imbalance between the US and China is not sustainable and the two countries have a joint responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said yesterday.
China should shift from export-led growth, increase its exchange rate flexibility and open its markets more, Locke said in remarks prepared for a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce.
Locke, who will visit Beijing and Shanghai, plans to promote clean energy technology as one area in which US industry can find opportunities in China.
“For all our areas of agreement, the US and China’s trade relationship has to evolve. There are concerns and deep structural issues that must be addressed,” Locke said.
“Chief among them is a bilateral trade imbalance that simply can’t be sustained. Growth predicated on ever increasing Chinese exports being consumed by debt-laden Americans provided years of prosperity — but it also sowed some of the seeds for our current economic problems,” he said.
The US is China’s second-largest trade partner after the EU and accounts for 18 percent of China’s total exports and imports.
“There do exist some issues in our bilateral trade relations, including cooperation on high-tech products,” Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Yao Jian (姚堅) told a press conference yesterday.
China’s big surplus in its trade with the US has become a global concern, he said.
“Of course, it’s a separate issue as how to interpret the trade surplus. In a globalized world today, trade surplus does not necessarily mean trade benefits,” Yao said, adding that China mainly exports labor-intensive products.
“China is trying to promote trade balance. We have special working groups that are in talks with the US side on promoting trade balance and cooperation on high-tech products,” he said.
US President Barack Obama will seek to restore balance in the two countries’ trade, Locke said, adding that the US trade deficit with China last year set a record near US$270 billion.
Locke praised China for taking steps to stimulate its domestic economy, but said it could help the world economy even more with further reforms.
“If China allowed for greater flexibility in its exchange rate and further opened up its domestic markets for imports and foreign direct investment, it would accelerate the world’s return to growth,” he said.
Locke is making his first trip to China as a member of the Obama administration.