U.S. and China Announce Series of Trade Agreements

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration said Wednesday that two days of talks with a high-level delegation from China produced results that should benefit U.S. companies ranging from manufacturers of computer software and wind turbines to beef producers.

The agreements touched on areas that have been the source of sharp discord between the two nations, and which a series of U.S. administrations have failed to resolve. Those areas include rampant piracy of U.S. intellectual property and China's continued barriers to American beef.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told reporters he hopes this week's deals will set the stage for even more extensive agreements when Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Washington in January.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the Chinese had agreed to allow American beef exports back into China on a staged basis and he hoped the first shipments would be made in early 2011. A team from the Department of Agriculture will visit China in early January in an effort to clear up remaining inspection issues, he said.

China imposed a ban on all beef imports from the United States over concerns about mad cow disease a number of years ago. Beijing later lifted the outright ban but the United States has been unable to overcome continued barriers involving the inspection of the beef.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, speaking through a translator, said that during this week's talks China reaffirmed its desire to allow the resumption of American beef imports from animals under the age of 30 months.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he was happy with China's commitments to boost government spending in the area of software purchases as a way to cut down on the use of pirated software.

The U.S. side said that significant agreements had also been reached that should boost export sales by American wind turbine manufacturers and heavy equipment. In one agreement, China agreed to revise a catalog governments use to purchase heavy machinery and industrial machinery to make sure it does not discriminate against foreign suppliers.

The two countries also signed seven new deals covering such areas as agricultural trade, including U.S. soybean exports to China, and the promotion of investment in the United States.

The talks took place as the 21st session of the Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade, which was established in 1983, to provide a channel for both countries to address trade disputes. The panel does not cover one major area of disagreement at the moment, China's currency policy.

American manufacturers contend China is keeping its currency undervalued by as much as 40 percent to make Chinese goods cheaper in the United States and American products more expensive in China.

While the JCCT discussions did not cover currency, the administration said that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner did cover the issue in a separate meeting Tuesday with Wang.

The administration has been pressing the Chinese to move more quickly to allow the yuan to appreciate in value against the dollar. But since Beijing pledged increase currency flexibility in June, the yuan has risen in value by only about 3 percent.

The U.S. House passed legislation in September that would give the government more powers to impose tariffs against products from China and other countries found to be manipulating their currencies. The Senate has yet to take up the legislation although supporters are vowing to get a vote on the issue before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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While this appears to be good news on the surface, I'm not convinced that our trade agreements are balanced and fair, especially with countries that have clearly adopted export based and protectionist economic policies and/or subsidize their domestic production. We need to encourage our members of Congress to review our trade policies and to revise agreements that provide products and services from foreign countries a competitive advantage in our market. The recent proposed agreement with South Korea still allows them to impose significant tariffs on vehicles from the US and to restrict volume, while we allow them essentially unrestrained access to our market and impose lower tariffs. I think our markets should only be as open to imports as our trading "partners" markets are open to ours. Further, where other countries directly or indirectly subsidize their domestic production to gain cost advantages (i.e. national health care, low or no minimum wage) we should impose duties or tariffs to offset the advantage created and encourage businesses to open facilities within the US borders for products and services intended for the US market.

December 16 2010 at 7:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply