U.S. Trade Chief To Visit China

Discussion to center on cutting the trade deficit, stopping intellectual property thefts.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (AP) – U.S. Trade chief Susan Schwab says she will make a three-day visit to China starting Sunday to further strengthen bilateral economic relations in efforts to help cut America’s record trade deficit, and push the Asian nation to curb intellectual property thefts.

Schwab told The Associated Press late Wednesday that during a meeting with China’s Commerce Minister Bo Xilai in Beijing, she also hopes to discuss China’s role in helping to restart stalled World Trade Organization (WTO) talks.

“China is likely to be a major beneficiary of a successful Doha round and is certain to be a major loser if the Doha round fails. We have a shared interest in seeing a successful Doha round,” she said on the sidelines of meetings here with Southeast Asian trade ministers.

The 149-nation WTO suspended negotiations in the global trade liberalization talks last month, largely over differences on farm tariffs and subsidies.

Schwab hailed initial efforts by the Chinese to crack down on the theft of U.S. copyrights and patents, including a commitment to require that all personal computers sold in China have factory-installed operating programs as a way of reducing the pirating of U.S. computer software.

American companies claim that intellectual property thefts in China are costing them billions of dollars in lost sales annually.

“That is an important step in the right direction,” she said. “We still have some issues that still need to be addressed. Some related to China’s commitment under the WTO, obligations that have not been fulfilled. Issues related to intellectual property rights that are still quite problematic. Issues related to auto parts.”

Schwab declined to say if she will push China to allow its currency, the yuan, to rise in value against the dollar as a way of lowering the U.S. trade deficit but said as bilateral trade has grown, China clearly has benefited.

“U.S. exports to China have gone up 20 percent or more per year for the last several years. Obviously China’s exports to U.S. have gone up rapidly as well,” she said. “Clearly this is a trading relationship that benefits the Chinese. So there is some good news in terms of the strength of the bilateral trade relationship and we’ll talk about that.”

The U.S. trade deficit with China soared to $202 billion last year, the biggest imbalance ever with a single country. Some American manufacturers contend China is unfairly depressing the value of the yuan by as much as 40 percent to make their goods cheaper and more competitive against American products.

China’s Vice Commerce Minister Yi Xiaozhun told reporters Thursday that the communist giant expects its soaring trade surplus with the U.S. and the rest of the world to stabilize in the long run as it gradually liberalizes its economy.

“It’s not our policy to seek any trade surplus. We believe in trade liberalization, we believe in fair trade. So what we are trying to do is provide more market access and opportunities for other developing countries…and encouraging our entrepreneurs to invest overseas,” he said after talks with Southeast Asian ministers.

“We believe in the long run, we will see more balanced trade between China and the rest of the world.”

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