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Cablegate: Ustr Proposes Bilateral Labor Dialogue with China

VZCZCXYZ0017
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBJ #1689 0730708
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140708Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5610
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1660

UNCLAS BEIJING 001689

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT PASS USTR FOR KARESH, ROSENBERG, CELICO, STRATFORD, BLISS
LABOR FOR ILAB AND OSEC-OWENS
TREAS FOR OASIA/ISA-CUSHMAN
USDOC FOR 4420/ITA/MAC/MCQUEEN AND DAS KASOFF
GENEVA FOR CHAMBERLIN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ETRD CH
SUBJECT: USTR PROPOSES BILATERAL LABOR DIALOGUE WITH CHINA


1. (SBU) Summary: On March 6 Assistant USTR Tim Stratford met
with the Chinese Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSS)
and proposed that the United States and China initiate a
bilateral labor dialogue that would help the United States
sustain and improve trade ties with China. USTR has coordinated
this proposal with the United States Department of Labor (USDOL),
he said, and both agencies would participate. MOLSS Deputy
Director General for International Affairs Jiang Mohui agreed to
discuss the proposals within the Chinese government and come
back with a response. Stratford said he hoped a first session
of the dialogue could take place before mid-April. Jiang
thought this may be too soon. End summary.

2. (SBU) AUSTR Tim Stratford met MOLSS Deputy Director General
Jiang Mohui and proposed that the United States and China launch
a bilateral labor dialogue that would help improve and sustain
the US-China trading relationship. (During the previous week,
Deputy USTR Amb. Karan Bhatia alerted the Vice-Ministers of
Commerce and Foreign Affairs that the United States would be
making such a proposal -- septels.) Stratford recalled USTR?s
decision in July 2006 to reject a section 301 petition filed by
the AFL-CIO against China, as well as a White Paper the Chinese
Embassy in Washington provided at the time, which stated that
China was ?willing to strengthen communication and cooperation
and enhance understanding? on labor issues. Stratford noted the
criticism USTR received from Congress and American labor unions
for its decision to reject the petition in 2006, and reviewed
political developments that have occurred in the United States
since then, including the increased attention to labor in trade
policy debates in the new Democratic Party-dominated Congress.
Stratford said Congress is already working on several pieces of
China-related trade legislation, and that a labor dialogue would
be helpful to demonstrate to Congress that China and the United
Stats are engaged in a constructive discussion of labor issues.
Stratford said USTR has coordinated the proposal with USDOL. The
goal of the dialogue, Stratford said, was not to supplant
existing cooperative programs between the Chinese government and
USDOL, but to use the forum to explain United States concerns
and learn more about the Chinese situation, as well as to find
ways to cooperate and make improvements.

3. (SBU) Stratford said he envisioned bilateral meetings at
the Assistant Secretary/Director General level twice a year,
with Vice Ministers meeting occasionally to review progress. He
said either side should be free to place topics on the agenda.
Stratford hoped the first meeting of the dialogue could take
place no later than mid-April 2007. The United States is
flexible, Stratford said, about what to call the dialogue, takes
no position on which Chinese agencies other than MOLSS should
participate, and sees no need to sign any agreement or
memorandum, or link the dialogue to existing structures such as
the Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) or the
Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED), but is open to considering
other approaches China might favor.

4. (SBU) Jiang said he would report the proposal to his
superiors within MOLSS as well as to the Ministry of Commerce
(MOFCOM) and others, before providing an official response. He
thought mid-April was very soon for a first meeting, and said
that if such a dialogue were linked to the JCCT or SED, it could
make the process much more complicated. He reiterated China?s
view that labor issues should not be used as an excuse for
protectionist trade sanctions, but also indicated that China
would welcome an opportunity to correct prevalent but unfair
misimpressions in the United States about the labor situation in
China. He observed that in previous visits to the United States,
he found American officials and non-government China experts
misunderstood China?s situation because of lack of first hand
information.

5. (U) AUSTR Stratford cleared this message.
RANDT

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