CHINA / National

China agrees to increase copyright enforcement
Updated: 2006-04-12 09:00

China has agreed to crack down on copyright piracy of American computer programs and lift a ban on U.S. beef as part of an effort to reduce a record $202 billion (euro166.87 billion)trade gap, the Bush administration said Tuesday.

The agreements were two of several made by China during a high-level meeting designed to reduce trade tensions in advance of next week's U.S. visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

"Our message to China has been consistent and clear," US. Trade Representative Rob Portman said at a joint news conference. "American exporters, workers, farmers and service providers deserve the same access that China has to our markets."

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi said at the direction of top Chinese officials, China has been working earnestly to increase imports from the United States.

"All in all, China welcomes more American products to enter the Chinese market," she said through a translator. "The Chinese market is open."

Wu noted that she is traveling with a delegation of more than 200 Chinese business executives with the expectation that they will sign 107 contracts to buy $16.2 billion (euro13.4 billion) in U.S. products.

Included in that is a deal to purchase 80 commercial airliners from Boeing Co., at a list price of $4.6 billion (euro3.8 billion)

The administration said that in the area of piracy, the Chinese agreed to require that computers use legal software and to step up enforcement of intellectual property rights. They also pledged to close Chinese optical disk plants that are producing pirated CDs and DVDs.

In her comments, Wu said regulations would be issued stipulating that all computers sold in China must have legal operating systems.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said China had agreed to reopen its market to U.S. beef after clearing up some remaining technical issues.

"We both committed to work closely together to do this quickly," he said at the conclusion of the annual meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns refused to give reporters a specific estimate of how quickly the remaining roadblocks could be cleared to resume the beef exports to China. However, he believed it could be done long before the end of this year.

The administration has been pushing the Chinese for greater commitments to deal with trade barriers, which U.S. firms contend are costing them billions of dollars in lost sales, and to stop holding down the value of their currency in relation to the dollar.

The administration is under growing political pressure to show progress in dealing with a soaring trade deficit with China that critics say has contributed to the loss of nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs since 2000.

The administration said China also agreed to begin negotiations to join an agreement administered by the World Trade Organization that governs that standards foreign companies must meet when bidding for government contracts.

Gutierrez said China would submit its proposal on how it would follow the WTO procedures no later than the end of 2007.

This was critical for companies that hoped to break into China's multibillion market for government contracts.

The National Association of Manufacturers said the package of commitments represented "incremental contributions" to solving the trade gap between the two nations.

"As helpful as these individual steps are, they need to be followed by systemic changes that will put our trade relationship on a more fair basis," said Frank Vargo, the organization's vice president.

Vargo said his group was hopeful that the Bush-Hu meeting next week would produce a breakthrough in a long-standing dispute over China's currency system.

On Monday, Bush said he would raise the currency issue with Hu at the meeting a week from Thursday.

"He's coming into a country where there's over a $200 billion trade deficit, and a lot of Americans are wondering where's the equity in trade," Bush said. "I think he could help the Americans understand the importance of a free-trading world if he were to maybe make a statement on his currency, for example."

The administration has been lobbying China for more than two years to allow its currency to rise in value against the U.S. dollar. American manufacturers contend China unfairly depresses the value of its currency to make Chinese goods cheaper in America and U.S. products more expensive in China.


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