US to discuss trade disputes with China
Updated: 2006-02-25 13:41
The Bush administration is sending a trade negotiating team to China next week to try to resolve disputes involving US auto parts and copyright piracy of American products, officials announced Friday.
Jim Mendenhall, general counsel for US Trade Representative Rob Portman (news, bio, voting record), will lead the USTR team that is scheduled to meet in Beijing with Chinese officials on Wednesday.
Mendenhall said the visit was part of the crackdown on unfair Chinese trade practices that the administration announced a week ago.
The administration is hoping success in resolving long-running trade issues with China will head off tougher protectionist actions in Congress to deal with a trade gap with China that hit an all-time high of $202 billion last year.
Mendenhall said the US team would focus on gaining information from China on the types of court cases the government has brought to combat the rampant piracy of U.S. computer programs, music and other copyrighted material which U.S. companies contend are costing them billions of dollars in lost sales.
The administration had set a deadline of Jan. 23 for the Chinese to provide information on their enforcement effort. But the Chinese balked, saying that the request went beyond what is required under global trade rules administered by the World Trade Organization.
Mendenhall said the US team would also try to resolve a dispute involving high tariffs that the Chinese are imposing on US auto parts, which the United States contends is in violation of WTO rules.
The administration has said that without progress in both the piracy and auto parts dispute, it will consider filing trade cases against China before the WTO.
Mendenhall would not say when a decision would be made on bringing WTO cases but he said it would be critical to make progress in next week's meeting.
"We are running out of options short of a more formal process to move this forward," Mendenhall said, referring to the possibility of filing WTO cases.
The discussions next week will also be part of the preparation for a high-level meeting of US and Chinese economic officials that will occur April 11 in Washington. On April 24, Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Washington for meetings with President Bush.
The administration also faces an April 15 deadline for sending a report to Congress declaring whether China is manipulating its currency to gain trade advantages.
Treasury Secretary John Snow indicated last week that the administration may cite China as a currency manipulator in the new report unless the country goes farther in allowing its currency to rise in value against the dollar.