U.S. fails to sway China on trade ties
By Calum Macleod
By Calum Macleod
XIANGHE, China — With modest gains but few breakthroughs, six U.S. Cabinet officials head home this weekend from talks to smooth an often rocky economic relationship with increasingly important trade partner China.
The U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue, co-chaired by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, held its third session in a mock-imperial resort an hour from Beijing on Wednesday and Thursday.
Vice Premier Wu Yi, Beijing's top negotiator, called last week's session "a complete success." Paulson described it as "instructive and constructive" and praised the retiring Wu as "an extraordinary representative of the Chinese people."
But behind the public handshakes, tough talking dominated. These discussions were "more candid, more spontaneous and more real" than the first two sessions last December and in May, said U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.
Despite worries over product safety, America's taste for cheap Chinese goods translated into a U.S. trade deficit with China of $25.9 billion in October, a record single-month jump of 9.1 percent, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures released Wednesday.
The ever-worsening U.S. deficit, plus the fear that China is taking American jobs, has prompted several of the roughly 50 China-related trade bills introduced this year in Congress. Paulson said Thursday that both Washington and Beijing must fight "economic nationalism and protectionism," because "nations cannot protect their way to prosperity."
But Wu warned the U.S. not to adopt punitive measures against China over trade disputes.
"I need to be quite candid about this: If these bills are adopted (by Congress), they will severely undermine U.S. business ties with China," she said Wednesday.
The true value of China's currency, the yuan, is among the hottest topics in China-U.S. relations, but little progress was achieved this week in speeding the pace of appreciation. U.S. industries believe Beijing maintains an artificially low value to keep Chinese exports cheap — and cost U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Switching to a market-determined currency will not be a cure-all for the imbalances in the China-U.S. economic relationship, Paulson said Thursday. Yet the currency "is in many ways a proxy for reform," he said.
Agreements signed Tuesday in Beijing included new controls on food, feed, drugs and medical devices from China to the U.S.
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