China is set to overtake Japan this year as America's third-largest export
market, an American trade official said Wednesday.
U.S. exports to China grew 36.5 percent in the first five months of the year
over the same period in 2005, Under Secretary for International Trade Franklin
L. Lavin told reporters during a visit to China's business hub of Shanghai.
"My prediction is, by the end of this year, China will
be the United States' third largest export market, surpassing Japan, if this
trend continues," Lavin said.
US Under Secretary for International
Trade Franklin L. Lavin, right, speaks to foreign and Chinese journalists
Wednesday, July 26, 2006 in Shanghai. [AP]
America's top export market is Canada, with Mexico second. China is currently
in fourth place, taking in US$41 billion of U.S. exports last year, up 25
percent from 2004.
Lavin said export growth encompassed "everything from soybeans to Boeing,"
the U.S. aircraft maker, and that continued strong economic growth in China
should sustain the trend.
"As the Chinese market improves and continues to open I think we'll see these
high rates of growth," he said.
Still, China exports far more to the United States than vice versa - a
perennial source of political friction between the nations.
Washington blames Chinese imports for the loss of 3 million manufacturing
jobs in the U.S. and many in Congress say China competes unfairly, mainly by
keeping its currency undervalued compared to the dollar.
The U.S. administration recently rejected a petition by American unions
seeking an investigation into Chinese labor practices, arguing that there was
evidence Chinese practices were improving.
Lavin, who is attending a series of meetings in China through next week, said
he would seek progress in meetings with Chinese officials on irritants in the
relationship, particularly copyright violation.
Lavin will be discussing limits to U.S. businesses and services in China,
among the barriers he said that help create the damaging perception in America
that China doesn't play fair. Such sentiments have undercut efforts by Chinese
companies to enter the U.S. market, such as the failed attempt last year by
state-controlled CNOOC Ltd. to buy Unocal Corp.
"If the Chinese market is perceived as unfair, if it's perceived as closed
and we have a substantial trade deficit, these two factors together can feed an
anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States, which I feel is unhealthy for both
countries," Lavin said.
He also said he would argue in favor of bids by U.S. companies for chunks of
Chinese firms, including a $3 billion offer by a consortium led by Citigroup
Inc. for a stake in Guangdong Development Bank.