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US presses China on trade, Beijing warns on risks

Beijing, May 23, 2010

The United States on Sunday pressed China to give 'fair access' for foreign companies, and China stressed the risks both economies face from Europe's debt woes, ahead of top-level talks in Beijing.

Speaking in China's commercial epicentre, Shanghai, a day before the start of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Beijing, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the importance of US economic concerns for relations with China.

'In the coming days, officials at the highest levels of our two governments will be discussing issues of economic balance and competition,' Clinton said in a speech given in a vast hangar at Shanghai airport, referring to the Beijing meeting.

'Transparency in rule making and standard setting, non-discrimination, fair access to sales to private sector and government purchasers alike, the strong enforcement of intellectual property rights are all vitally important in the 21st century global economy,' Clinton told the audience of US and Chinese business executives.

'American companies want to compete in China,' she said, standing in front of a Boeing 737. 'They want to sell goods made by American workers to Chinese consumers with rising income and increasing demand.'

Clinton's remarks underscored how large economic concerns will loom at the two-day S&ED meeting, jostling for attention with a range of other issues, including North Korea.

The United States' annual trade gap with China fell to $226.8 billion in 2009, down from a record $268.0 billion in 2008. But the Obama administration is keen to lift exports and employment, and the deficit remains a point of friction with Beijing.

The imbalance has fuelled accusations from the US Congress and manufacturing sector that China is manipulating its currency for an unfair trade advantage by keeping the price of its yuan artificially low against the dollar.

But US and Chinese officials have stressed that the meeting in Beijing will not be dominated by the yuan.

In comments published on Sunday, China's Finance Minister Xie Xuren said cooperation with Washington was all the more important in the face of the European debt crisis.

'At present, risks from European sovereign debt have increased factors of instability in the course of global economic recovery,' Xie wrote an essay published in the Washington Post and on his Ministry's website (www.mof.gov.cn).

China and the United States must 'each protect macro economic stability and strengthen macro-economic policy coordination, to consolidate the trend towards global economic recovery,' Xie wrote.

Xie's remarks jarred those of a senior US Treasury Department official who said ahead of the talks with China that Europe's crisis should have only minimal impact on the global recovery as governments put in place counter-measures.

There has been speculation that China may delay letting its yuan currency rise in value - as Washington has urged - out of concern that its exports to Europe will suffer.

The US Treasury official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, repeated it was China's choice to decide what to do about its currency peg but expressed hope Beijing would keep boosting domestic consumption and rely less on exports.
 
Clinton followed other US officials who have sought to concentrate attention on policies that they claim may unfairly impede US companies hunting for customers in China.
 
US officials say they are particularly worried about China's 'indigenous innovation' programme to promote home-grown technology, which they say is creating barriers to foreign companies seeking to win government supply contracts for high-tech equipment, energy technology and other sophisticated products.

China says its procurement rules do not unfairly discriminate against foreign companies, but also last month partly modified those rules after rising criticism from US and European companies and governments.

The Chinese Finance Minister Xie said that his country and the United States both benefited from their trade and should oppose protectionism.-Reuters




Tags: economy | China | US | Hillary Clinton | Talks | Trade deficit |

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