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U.S. and China Trade Commission to Meet in Washington

U.S. and China Trade Commission to Meet in Washington

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington - U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says nations that have been overly reliant on exports to be the engines of their economic growth will benefit by pursuing policies that help boost their own consumer demand.

Locke on December 2 said the United States is doing its part to correct global imbalances by boosting domestic savings and reducing its deficit. Other nations can boost domestic activity through regulatory reforms, infrastructure investments and expanding the social safety net for its citizens, he added.

"We can no longer depend so heavily on consumers in the United States, Europe and other developed countries to be engines of global economic growth," Locke said at the U.S.-China Commercial Relationship Policy Conference held at Georgetown University in Washington.

"This approach worked well enough in the past, but it has created major imbalances in the global economy that threaten everyone's stability and prosperity," Locke said.

The United States will facilitate global adjustments by increasing the private savings rate and increasing U.S. exports, he said.

Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will co-host the 21st session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan on December 14-15 in Washington. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is expected to join the talks.

The joint commission was created in 1983 as a forum for addressing bilateral trade matters and promoting commercial opportunities. At the 2009 meeting in Hangzhou, China agreed to reopen its market to U.S. pork and to remove barriers for American companies to China's growing clean-energy market, Locke said.

The meeting provides an opportunity for the two economic powers to address mutual trade issues such as intellectual property rights, government procurement, and innovation policies with the goal of supporting global competitiveness, increasing U.S. exports and creating jobs in the United States, Locke said.

The United States has pursued an aggressive schedule of meetings on trade and commerce with Chinese officials this year. That has included talks President Obama held with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Group of 20 summits in Toronto and Seoul and talks at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

Kirk said at the Georgetown conference that the joint commission meeting "is a key mechanism we have for addressing critical trade priorities with China."

Locke said that as recently as 40 years ago a commercial relationship between the United States and China barely existed, but by last year total bilateral trade in goods amounted to $365 billion.

China was the largest supplier of U.S. goods imports in 2009 and was the third-largest market for U.S. exports in 2009, after neighbors Canada and Mexico. U.S. goods exports to China totaled $69 billion last year, up 329 percent since 2000, the Commerce Department says.

Trade in the services sector with China totaled $24 billion in 2009.

At the meeting later this month, U.S. and Chinese officials will review progress made by more than a dozen working groups covering a wide range of trade issues in intellectual property rights, telecommunications, agriculture, medical devices and pharmaceuticals, and travel and tourism.

Locke said trade with China has two important components. The first is helping U.S. businesses to further develop their capacity to export, and targeting U.S. companies that are new to exporting and others that are new to the global market for ventures into markets like China.

The second component to increasing exports to China is addressing barriers to market access that prevent U.S. products and services from reaching the world's second-largest economy. Both of these measures are a primary goal of President Obama's National Export Initiative, which aims to double American exports by 2015, Locke said.

"Increased Chinese consumption of foreign products and services isn't just a quality-of-life issue - it is also of paramount importance to the global economy," Locke said.

Locke said China has made steady progress in modernizing its legal institutions and recognizing rights to ownership of private property. It has also removed import quotas and joint-venture requirements for foreign companies seeking to do business in China, reduced tariffs and improved its commercial legal regime.

"In spite of this progress, there are still significant barriers that inhibit free and fair competition," Locke said. "We would like to see more reciprocity from our partners in China and a stronger commitment to pursuing the market-opening policies that China agreed to when it originally joined the [World Trade Organization]."

The United States is working with a variety of Chinese institutions, inside and outside of the government, to implement many of the best trade practices that helped make the U.S. economy the global leader, Locke said. Each year, the joint commission has been successful in addressing specific bilateral concerns and in removing market-access barriers, he added.


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