China rejects US trade complaints

Updated: 2006-12-12 21:51

BEIJING - China on Tuesday rejected US complaints that it is failing to live up to market-opening commitments on the eve of a visit to Beijing by US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to discuss currency and other contentious issues.

Related readings:
US House passes bill to boost trade with Vietnam
Nation pledges to cut trade surplus ahead of Paulson visit
China urges US to release export controls
US to promote further trade relations with China
There is difference in statistical criteria
US urged to scrap trade curbs
Selling sex a deadly game in N.J. city
Paulson reaching out to China
Fed Chairman to join China mission
Tackling the trade surplus

"We have implemented our obligations and commitments earnestly and have abided by the rules of the World Trade Organization," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.

Qin rejected a US government report released Monday that said China has failed to live up to WTO pledges and warned that Washington would not hesitate to pursue sanctions.

The report came amid a flurry of news on China's soaring trade surplus and complaints about market access that highlighted the complexity of the challenge facing Paulson and his Chinese counterparts.

Paulson has tried to downplay expectations of major agreements from the meetings Thursday and Friday in Beijing, billed as part of a long-term "strategic dialogue." Chinese officials have ruled out major changes in Beijing's currency policies, a key issue for American manufacturers, who say the yuan is undervalued.

That came after Beijing said its November trade surplus was the second-highest on record, lifting its global trade gap to $156.5 billion for the first 11 months of the year, far above last year's $102 billion.

"These discussions will be poisoned by events and economic news before Secretary Paulson and his crew get to Beijing," Carl B. Weinberg, chief economist for the consulting firm High Frequency Economics, said in a report this week.

The talks led by Paulson, Washington's point man on economic relations with Beijing, and Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi are part of a high-level dialogue announced in September to address trade, currency and other disputes.

Paulson is accompanied by a host of top American officials, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and four other Cabinet members - Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.

US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Stephen Johnson, also are attending.

Schwab gave ammunition to Beijing's critics on Monday with an annual report to Congress that said China is failing to live up to its market-opening WTO pledges. It said Beijing should do more to fight product piracy, end policies that favor Chinese companies and lower barriers to foreign competitors in its service industries.

"Certain industries face frustrating barriers to doing business in China and there are worrisome signs that China's market liberalization efforts have slowed in the last year," Schwab said in a statement.

The United States also is pressing Beijing to raise the value of its currency, the yuan, which has gained only 3.4 percent against the US dollar since it was revalued in July 2005.

Last week, a group of US manufacturers appealed to Paulson to press Beijing for action on its currency. They contend that the weak yuan is a key reason behind China's bulging trade surplus with the United States, which is on track to surpass last year's record-high $202 billion.

But a Chinese central bank official on Monday appeared to rule out major changes in the system that allows the yuan to fluctuate within a narrow band against the dollar.

"Right now, the trading band still has a bit of room," said Tang Xu, director of the bank's Research Bureau, during a financial conference in Beijing. "Since were still far from using the entire band, there's no need to discuss whether we need to cancel or expand the band."

Chinese leaders say they plan eventually to let the yuan trade freely on world markets. But they say easing controls too quickly would disrupt China's fragile banks and financial industries.

In November, China's global trade gap totaled $22.9 billion, just below the all-time monthly high of $23.8 billion set in October, according to government data.

A key issue for US trade officials has been gaining wide access for American financial and other service companies to China's market.

But a report this week by the Chinese Commerce Ministry says the country's own service industries ran a $5.6 billion deficit in the first half of 2006, suggesting the government is unlikely to add to the gap by allowing more foreign competition.

Top China News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours