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U.S.-China Trade Talks Make “Meaningful Progress”
November 23, 2011

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Bryson, Vice Premier Wang and U.S. Trade Representative Kirk held talks November 21 in Chengdu, China.

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
IIP Staff Writer

22 November 2011


Senior U.S. officials say an annual two-day commerce and trade conference with Chinese officials made “meaningful progress” in crucial areas of the U.S.-China trade relationship, along with pledges for a level playing field for American and other foreign suppliers.

At a press briefing following the talks, Commerce Secretary John Bryson said that progress made during two days of trade talks with Chinese officials will help boost U.S. exports and jobs through the removal of important barriers related to the clean energy industry and rapidly emerging technologies. The Chinese also agreed to stricter enforcement of intellectual property rights, Bryson said.

Bryson, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack led a U.S. delegation that met November 20–21 with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and a Chinese delegation at the 22nd Annual Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT). The meetings were held in Chengdu, a leading Chinese economic center and the capital city of China’s Sichuan province.

Expanding trade ties with China will increase economic growth in the United States and advance President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014, they said. In early 2009, Obama announced the U.S. National Export Initiative, which aimed to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. It is part of a broader U.S. initiative to rebalance the national economy to one less dependent on consumer growth as the dominant influence in the U.S. economy, and also a component of expanding the economy following the 2007–2009 recession.

Worldwide U.S. trade exports in 2010 grew by 17 percent over the previous year, and exports to China grew by 32 percent, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Joining the three senior officials was U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, who is also a former secretary of commerce, U.S. Trade and Development Agency Director Leocadia Zak, and representatives from the State and Treasury departments. Senior Chinese officials from 23 ministries and agencies also participated.

Bryson said that U.S. and other financial firms can be competitive in China when the normal give-and-take in global investment can enjoy full and nondiscriminatory access.

“In today’s meeting, China committed to create a fair and level playing field for all companies in its strategic emerging industries, including clean energy, biotech and new-generation information technologies,” Bryson added.

Bryson noted in prepared remarks following the meetings that China plans to invest $1.5 trillion over the next five years in its strategic emerging industries, which it defines as high-end equipment manufacturing, energy-saving and environmentally friendly technologies, biotechnologies, new-generation information technologies, alternative energy, advanced materials and new energy vehicles.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture and the U.S. Agriculture Department are working on a five-year strategic plan that focuses on food security, food safety and sustainable farming to build a foundation for agricultural cooperation, the senior U.S. officials said.

China is a significant agricultural trading partner for the United States, and the recent meetings have done two things necessary for future opportunities — strengthen partnerships and build export opportunities, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters in Beijing.

“We intend to continue these discussions in the months ahead on beef and other agricultural products to break down additional trade barriers so Chinese consumers can benefit from the high-quality products that are produced in America,” Vilsack added.

U.S. Trade Representative Kirk said that China has confirmed it will not require foreign automakers to transfer technology to Chinese automakers, nor will it also require foreign automakers to create Chinese brands before they can invest and sell vehicles in the Chinese markets. There had been concern among U.S. automakers that they might be required to transfer electric vehicle technology to Chinese partners, but Kirk said the Chinese agreed not to require that.

Vice Premier Wang also “personally committed” to continue the software legalization program, the senior officials said. Specifically, he committed to ensure provincial legalization efforts would be concluded by the middle of 2012 and at the local and municipal levels by the end of 2013.

Before departing Beijing, U.S. companies signed commercial agreements that will result in nearly $40 million in U.S. exports and support jobs for American workers, the senior officials said. The United States and China also signed agreements related to intellectual property, high-technology trade, statistics and tourism, and agreed to public-private partnerships in energy and U.S. export promotion.

China was the largest supplier of U.S. goods imports in 2010, and the third-largest market for U.S. exports last year after Canada and Mexico. Bilateral trade in goods between the United States and China totaled $457 billion in 2010, with U.S. imports from China totaling $365 billion and U.S. exports to China totaling $92 billion, which is up 468 percent since 2000. The total U.S.-China trade in services came to $31 billion in 2010. U.S. service exports were $21 billion and services imports were $10 billion.

However, the Commerce Department reports that the U.S. trade deficit with China hit a monthly high of $29 billion in August, and may surpass last year’s $273 billion deficit, which was the highest recorded with a single country.

Established in 1983, the JCCT is the main forum for addressing bilateral trade issues and promoting commercial opportunities between the United States and China. Last year’s session was held in Washington in December.