As reported by MARTIN CRUTSINGER AP Economics WriterThe Bush administration, seeking to shrink a soaring trade deficit with China, won agreements Tuesday that the Chinese government will lift a ban on American beef, crack down on copyright piracy and move toward opening up its government bidding process to American firms.
The exact timetable for lifting the beef ban was left open, however, pending further negotiations over details governing the standards that will be applied to beef shipped to China. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns predicted such shipments would resume sometime this year.
China halted U.S. beef shipments after mad cow disease was discovered in the United States in December 2003.
The announcement on beef and the pledge for a greater crackdown on piracy of American computer software and other copyrighted products came after a day of high-level economic talks the Bush administration hopes will reduce growing anger in Congress over a trade deficit with China that hit a record $202 billion last year.
The discussions were being held in advance of a Washington visit next week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.
''One meeting is not going to solve all of our outstanding trade issues with China,'' U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said at a joint news conference with the Chinese. ''But in our discussions today, which were very frank and positive, we were able to solve some problems.''
Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, who led the Chinese delegation, said her country has been ''earnestly implementing'' the directions of China's top leaders to boost imports from the United States.
She said the annual meeting Tuesday of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, designed to smooth economic relations between the two countries, had ''demonstrated the good will of both sides to properly resolve problems through equal consultation.''
Wu noted that she is traveling with a delegation of more than 200 Chinese business executives with the expectation that they will sign 107 contracts to buy $16.2 billion in U.S. products.
Included in that is a deal to purchase 80 commercial jetliners from Boeing Co., at a list price of $4.6 billion. This agreement, signed Tuesday, completes a commitment China made last November, during a visit by President Bush, to buy a total of 150 Boeing jetliners.
In the area of piracy, the Chinese agreed to require that computers use legal software and to step up enforcement of intellectual property rights. They also pledged to close Chinese optical disk plants that are producing pirated CDs and DVDs.
In her comments, Wu said regulations would be issued stipulating that all computers sold in China must have legal operating systems.
The Chinese have made previous pledges to crack down on copyright piracy but piracy rates for computer software remain near 90 percent. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said the U.S. government would be watching for results in terms of increased sales of legal goods and an increase in prosecutions of copyright violators.
''As in everything else, the numbers will ultimately tell the story,'' Gutierrez told reporters.
The administration has been pushing the Chinese for greater commitments to deal with trade barriers, which U.S. firms contend are costing them billions of dollars in lost sales, and to stop holding down the value of their currency in relation to the dollar.
China also agreed to start the process to join an agreement administered by the World Trade Organization that governs standards foreign companies must meet when bidding for government contracts, a key goal for U.S. companies anxious to break into China's multibillion-dollar market for government contracts.
U.S. industry and members of Congress had generally favorable reactions to the agreements announced Tuesday.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., called the beef agreement a ''critical first step'' to getting American beef back into China.
Robert Holleyman, head of the Business Software Alliance, said what was critical would be for China to ''translate these principles into concrete action.''
Neil Turkewitz, executive vice president for international affairs at the Recording Industry Association of America, said he hoped the new commitments would help China achieve its goal of cutting copyright piracy in half.
Frank Vargo, vice president for international affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, said the commitments represented ''incremental contributions.'' He said his organization hoped to see significant progress next week during Hu's visit on the issue of China's manipulation of its currency to gain trade advantages.
Alan Tonelson, a research follow at the U.S. Business Industry Council, which represents many small manufacturing companies, said the Bush administration had settled for ''photo ops and tokenism'' rather than insisting on real changes in China's unfair trade practices.
On Monday, Bush said he would raise the currency issue with Hu at the meeting a week from Thursday