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Protectionism may be key component to trade summit
By Zhang Xin (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-23 08:01

Efforts to curb protectionism are likely to be the focus of a trade summit between China and the United States next week.

Senior officials from both countries will meet in Hangzhou for two days starting Thursday for the 20th US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) - the first under the Obama administration. The JCCT is the top forum for addressing bilateral trade matters and promoting commercial opportunities between the US and China.

US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will attend the summit.

"The first JCCT under the Obama administration provides an important opportunity to engage China on trade concerns impacting American companies," Locke said in a statement.

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While he said the two countries need to make progress on several priority issues, including intellectual property rights and clean energy, China's Commerce Ministry spokesman Yao Jian said earlier that China and the US will further their dialogues towards the US' recognition of China's status as a market economy.

But experts believe discussions will also likely cover trade barriers when Vice-Premier Wang Qishan sits down to co-chair the summit. US President Barack Obama kicked off the first trade dispute with China last month when he approved imposing tariffs of 35 percent on $1.8 billion worth of Chinese-made tires for a year. Chinese steel pipes used for oil and gas wells will face duties ranging from 10.9 to 30.6 percent, the US Commerce Department said last week.

Xiao Lian, a senior world economy scholar with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out that China and the US have maintained good trade relations and it is not surprising to see trade disputes coming up in certain sectors.

China is the US' second-largest trading partner after Canada, and bilateral trade volume totaled about $333.7 billion in 2008, according to the General Administration of Customs of China.

"Clean energy and low-carbon economy is going to be another hot topic in Sino-US economic cooperation. The US should broaden its technology exports to China," Xiao said.

He added that the JCCT would give both sides an opportunity to identify necessary measures to ensure that trade between the two nations is "fair, sustainable and mutually beneficial".

Other experts said the summit would pave the way for more insightful dialogues when Obama visits China next month.

Chen Fengying, director of the Institute of World Economic Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's presence at the summit indicates the US government is paying attention to exports of agricultural, fish and forest products to China. Two-way trade in these products was worth more than $21 billion in 2008, statistics show.

Chen said the trade deficit would be a key issue at the JCCT and that both the US and China should protect investments in their respective countries.

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