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October 30, 2009

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China and US focus on trade cooperation, not confrontation

CHINA and the United States agreed to tackle a series of trade irritants from pork to wind power and reiterated pledges against protectionism at high-level talks that ended in Hangzhou yesterday.

The annual Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting, held in a garden compound in the lake-side capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, comes just a few weeks before US President Barack Obama's first official trip to China.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan called on his American guests to "stand firmly against all types of trade protectionism" while US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said Obama was "committed to free and fair trade."

"We must look to the future and cooperate to create balanced and sustainable trade, lifting more of our people out of poverty not just for our own citizens in China and the United States but indeed all around the world," Locke said.

"It is critical that we make definite, concrete, demonstrable progress today to demonstrate to our citizens and people of the whole world that the US and China can work together," he said.

But in a sign that the global financial crisis has fueled a risk of more, not fewer, trade barriers, Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming confirmed that China would conduct a preliminary dumping investigation of US auto imports.

The probe is in response to the imposition last month by the US of tariffs on Chinese tires and some steel products.

Speaking to reporters after the bilateral meetings, though, officials from both countries tried to keep the focus on areas of agreement, not contention.

Chinese Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai said China would adjust restrictions on imports of US pork, imposed earlier this year after an outbreak of a new strain of H1N1 flu virus, commonly referred to as swine flu.

"I hope pork imports can quickly resume, but I also hope the US will follow Chinese requirements to credibly ensure the quality, safety and health of pork exports to China," Sun said.

He said China had already allowed cooked pork products imports to resume.

China will also remove its requirement for national content in tenders for wind power equipment, said Zhang Guobao, head of the National Energy Administration.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters that China had agreed to submit a revised offer to join the World Trade Organization's government procurement agreement by 2010.

The US agreed that imposing curbs on Chinese exports was not the way to tackle the country's trade surplus, Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said.

"The two have agreed that the solution to the trade gap between the United States and China is not to restrict imports from China but to promote balance," Chen said.

Chen said the US also agreed to establish a working group to examine China's long-standing demand that the US formally regard it as a market economy.

He said progress on that front was unrelated to "microeconomic" issues such as US concerns that China subsidizes its state-owned enterprises with loans, land and other resources.

The probe into US auto imports would be "objective, just and fair," Chen said.

It could lead to new import duties on autos and sport utility vehicles made by Chrysler, a US industry official said on Wednesday.


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