China Promises 'Level Playing Field' For Clean Energy

Officials from Beijing said that U.S. companies will be able to compete equally for $1.7 trillion in investments in sustainable energy technology.

BEIJING (AP) -- U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson said Chinese officials promised foreign technology suppliers equal access to their booming clean energy industry in trade talks amid pressure to revive global growth.

Bryson said Monday that Chinese officials told him the country will invest $1.7 trillion over the next five years in clean energy and other emerging technologies. He said they pledged a "level playing field" for U.S. and other foreign suppliers.

Foreign suppliers of wind and solar gear complain Beijing improperly supports their Chinese rivals, while business groups say the government is trying to limit foreign involvement in China's growing clean energy and other promising industries.

The issue is sensitive for the United States and other Western economies that are counting on technology exports to shore up flagging economic growth and cut high unemployment.

"They intend to provide a fair and level playing field in those industries," Bryson said after the two-day meeting of the U.S.-Chinese Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

The top Chinese envoy, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, "said there would be significant opportunities to Chinese and U.S. and other foreign companies," Bryson said. He said it was unclear which other industries would be affected.

In addition to clean energy, the Chinese government has promised grants, tax breaks and other support to promote "strategic industries" including environmental and information technology, biotech and high-end manufacturing.

The U.S.-Chinese committee aims to defuse trade tensions by focusing on individual policy disputes. Previous meetings have produced pledges by Beijing to lower barriers to imports of American beef and to fight rampant Chinese software piracy.

On Monday, the two governments announced they signed agreements to improve cooperation on intellectual property, technology, energy, trade statistics and business relations. No details were immediately released.

The meeting came amid mounting demands by some American lawmakers for punitive tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing fails to ease exchange-rate controls. They say China's yuan is kept undervalued, giving its exporters an unfair trade advantage and wiping out jobs in the United States.

Earlier Monday, Wang appealed to U.S. envoys for cooperation to revive the global economy, emphasizing shared goals instead of disputes over currency and other irritants.

"We are facing a very serious global economic crisis," Wang said. "Ensuring economic health is the responsibility of every nation. Unbalanced progress is better than balanced decline."

Leaders of the world's biggest and second-biggest economies have pledged to work together to shore up global growth but ties have been strained by complaints about China's exchange-rate controls and access to its markets. Beijing is uneasy about Washington's moves to expand its political and military presence in Asia.

Bryson warned earlier Monday that American lawmakers and businesspeople "are moving toward a more negative view" of U.S.-Chinese trade ties.

President Barack Obama pressed Premier Wen Jiabao, China's top economic official, over Beijing's currency controls in a meeting last week on the sidelines of an Asian economic regional gathering in Indonesia.

The U.S. trade deficit with China hit a monthly high of $29 billion in August and is on track to surpass last year's $273 billion, the highest ever recorded with a single country.

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