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Key Issues Persist Despite U.S.-China Pacts

Capping a week of top-level trade meetings marked by some acrimony, U.S. and Chinese officials said Thursday they reached several new agreements, including...

XIANGHE, China — Capping a week of top-level trade meetings marked by some acrimony, U.S. and Chinese officials said Thursday they reached several new agreements, including outlines for improved food and product safety.

But key issues remain unresolved, including a faster timetable for appreciation of Chinese currency, China’s failure to protect U.S. intellectual property rights and delays in opening Chinese consumer and financial markets to global goods and services.

“We have had substantive, robust and engaging exchanges on a range of issues important to both our nations, including the integrity of trade, balanced growth, including financial services, energy security and environmental sustainability, and bilateral investment,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. said in closing the U.S.-China “strategic economic dialogue” talks outside Beijing. “By building closer relationships, we have clarified perceptions and increased understanding, which is vital to keeping our economic relationship on an even keel.”

His counterpart, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, also said the talks have created a better understanding of important issues. Wu and Paulson agreed that more work is needed, however, and disagreements persist.

“Both sides need to discuss Sino-U.S. economic relations from a strategic point of view, and map out a better blueprint for future U.S.-China economic trade relations and cooperation,” Wu said.

The two countries called for an end to growing nationalist sentiment and trade protectionism, saying antitrade legislation and action will only harm each nation’s economic stability. China prodded the U.S. to stop looking eastward for the causes of its own economic problems, while American leaders pushed China to do better on meeting its global trade obligations.

China and the U.S. signed 13 agreements in eight different areas, from environmental protection to food and product safety. The governments will work together to combat illegal logging, increase the number of Chinese tourist visas for the U.S. and make long-term, bilateral plans on energy efficiency.

Even as they reached those agreements, new friction arose. Most notably, U.S. trade officials said they were working to find out whether China has banned the release of new American films within its borders, which The New York Times reported on Thursday. If such a ban has been imposed, they said, the U.S. will pursue action under its pending complaint against China with the World Trade Organization over intellectual property rights.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez expressed concern over the film situation and said they have not had a definitive answer from China about whether new American releases are being blocked.

“We have spoken forcefully” on the issue, Schwab said. “It has been raised at all appropriate high levels.”

Under its WTO entry agreement, China is able to limit to 20 a year the number of new foreign films screened in its theaters. But reports said all approvals for movies from the U.S. have been suspended, which could violate WTO terms. In April, the U.S. lodged two complaints against China with the WTO over intellectual property, including one case that alleged China encourages piracy by censoring and limiting legal movie and other entertainment releases.

A spokesman for the China Film Group Corp., the Chinese release vehicle for international films that screen in this country, was quoted in state-run media saying there is no ban on American films.

Trade tensions between the U.S. and China have risen to new heights amid mounting consumer concerns over safety of food and other products made in China, as well as with China’s record trade surplus. U.S. officials maintain that China’s undervalued currency is critical in leveling the trade field, but Chinese leaders said they will revalue the yuan slowly, at their own pace, to maintain economic stability.

Paulson described the currency “a proxy for reform” and said the value of the yuan itself is not going to solve all of the remaining problems in U.S.-Sino trade relations. However, he said a market-driven currency is an essential part of China being a true team player in the global economy.

“They’re going to continue to hear about it until they get a market-driven currency,” Paulson said.