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October 29, 2009

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Deal between US and Chinese builders means job creation

TOP United States trade officials visiting China for high level talks on economic issues oversaw the signing yesterday of a joint venture between major Chinese and US construction companies - a deal meant to create jobs on both sides.

"The profound reality is that trade means jobs and this joint venture means good jobs in both America and here," Ron Kirk, US President Barack Obama's senior trade emissary, said of the deal between Harsco Corp and state-run Zhejiang Construction Materials Corp.

Kirk, the US Trade Representative, and other top US officials were in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, for the annual meeting of the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.

The talks often tackle contentious issues such as copyright piracy and tariff disputes, but this time the emphasis was on cooperation rather than conflict since the meeting comes just weeks before Obama's visit to China.

Earlier in the day, US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced plans for a US-China Energy Cooperation Program - a public-private partnership that will use US expertise to help develop clean energy in China.

China and the US are each others' second-biggest trading partners, with nearly US$400 billion in two-way trade in 2008. But a string of trade disputes had soured otherwise warm ties over recent months, with the two sides clashing over products such as steel pipes, auto parts, movies, poultry and other goods.

"As we grow and expand, inevitably we're going to have challenges and problems we have to deal with. We need an open relationship in which we can speak openly of our disagreements," Jon Huntsman, the US Ambassador to China, said yesterday in a meeting with the Chinese side.

He said the meeting in Hangzhou would help set the direction for trade and investment for years to come.

Financial details of the joint venture between Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based Harsco and the Zhejiang company, one of China's biggest contractors, were not announced. But Locke said the tie-up would mean US$100 million in extra revenue for Harsco over the next five years.

Construction of new railways and other infrastructure is a major part of China's 4 trillion yuan (US$586 billion) economic stimulus package. Harsco has major contracts in Chinese railway and subway construction, with more than US$100 million of its US$4 billion in annual revenue earned in the country.

China will build 40 billion square meters of residential, office and industrial space in coming years, said Locke.


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