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China, US sign substantial agreements
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Dialogue prevailed again in key Sino-U.S. talks, resulting in a series of agreements by Tuesday afternoon to deepen collaboration on contentious issues such as product safety, energy and environmental protection.


Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi called this one-day closed-door 18th Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade "substantial" and "evidence of sincere goodwill from both sides to resolve economic and trade issues through peaceful consultation."


The successful outcome of Tuesday's meeting established a positive tone for the third China-U.S. Strategic Economic Dialogue, which is to start on Wednesday, and provided a forceful boost to trade development, she said.


Product safety, an issue that has sparked many disputes since spring, appeared to have dominated the agenda on Tuesday, since three of the 14 agreements and memoranda agreed upon involved methods to boost safety cooperation on drugs, medical devices, food and feed, alcohol and tobacco.


Implementation of the agreement will begin with a determined list of products, such as preserved foods, pet food and pet treats of plant origin or animal origin, raw materials used in making manufactured foods and farm-raised fish, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement after signing of the agreement on food and feed safety.


To better contain and resolve safety problems, the HHS and China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine will adopt new registration and certification requirements so as to trace products from the source of production or manufacture to the point of exploration.


The parties also commit to notify the other within 48 hours of the emergency of significant risks to public health related to product safety, recalls, and other situations. In the past, there was no system of notification.


A working group will be created within 60 days to develop a plan that further details specific activities each will undertake to implement the agreement, and to establish performance measures to evaluate progress. The two sides also agreed to facilitate travel of Chinese tourist group to the United States, establish a forum on environmental protection technology and industrial cooperation and work more closely in the areas of agricultural science and technology and the development of bio-fuels.


In apparent efforts to address the trade imbalance, the Chinese and American delegations have signed the guidelines for high technology and strategic trade development.


U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez called the guidelines a "positive step forward" to achieve the mutual benefits of promoting U.S. high technology exports to China. But commerce authorities of both countries will continue to review U.S. dual-use policy to identity and implement appropriate processes to streamline the licensing process for legitimate civilian trade.


The guidelines also recognize the critical role of end-use visits in ensuring the protection of U.S. national security interests in the enhancement of high technology trade.


Gutierrez and Wu Yi warned Tuesday morning about the rise of and dangers from protectionist forces, and both expressed hope that the annual meeting and the following two-day strategic economic dialogue would have a commitment to openness.


"The way that we want to reduce our deficit is by exporting more, not by reducing imports," Gutierrez said.


The latest figures from Chinese Customs show that between January and November, China-U.S. trade expanded 15.7 percent from the same period of last year to 276.21 billion U.S. dollars.


In November, China's imports from the United States rose 17.7 percent to 6.525 billion U.S. dollars while its exports to the latter grew only 15.1 percent -- but still to 21.7 billion U.S. dollars.


"China has been the fastest-growing export market for the United States for five straight years," Wu said at the opening ceremony, forecasting that China would be the third-largest importer of U.S. goods this year, after Canada and Mexico.


The Chinese top trade official, who told the media she would retire next year, said she sincerely hoped that relevant agencies from both sides would fully implement the broad consensus reached at the meeting, expand cooperation, iron out disparities and work more closely for a brighter future for China-U.S. economic and trade relations.


Wu used stronger terminology to criticize the "unharmonious notes" in China-U.S. trade ties, marked by what she described as a sharp rise in the number of U.S. Congressional actions against China, the politicization of economic and trade issues, tighter controls on certain types of exports to China and what she termed the purposeful exaggeration of China's food and product safety practices.


"These have seriously damaged the reputation of China-made products and the image of China," she said.


In April, the Bush administration, under pressure from Congress over trade with China, took action at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against China over copyright piracy and market access barriers against American books, music and movies.


Last month, the WTO decided to set up an expert panel to investigate the alleged Chinese restrictions.


"China is a responsible developing nation, not only in terms of the protection of intellectual property rights, but also improving product quality and balancing foreign trade. Our attitudes are clear-cut and our actions are resolute," she said.


Market confidence in China-made products improved after the Chinese government launched a broad, four-month national campaign with a special leading team to raise awareness of product quality. The government also moved to crack down on producers of counterfeit and sub-standard goods.


Customs figures revealed that Guangdong, China's major toy production base, exported toys valued at 4.94 billion U.S. dollars in the first 10 months, up 22.9 percent over the same period last year. About 79 percent were exported to the United States and the European Union. Toys were one of the product categories involved in quality and safety controversies.


The southern coastal province accounts for 70 percent of the Chinese toys made for export and about half of the world's toy production.


Wu urged both sides to be far-sighted, to think strategically and to facilitate consultation and collaboration.


"Imposing restrictions on normal trade or resorting to protective measures will be only be detrimental to the interests of both sides and useless in resolving problems," she said.


Dismissing concerns that China would narrow the scope of its opening-up policies, Wu reiterated that the country would not change its stance on the broader use of foreign capital. "China's door has been and will be resolutely opened to the outside world," she said.


The China-U.S. Strategic Economic Dialogue, launched by Chinese President Hu Jintao and his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush, in September 2006, will last two days this year.


It will focus on six long-term topics: the challenges of globalization, trade integration, balanced economic development, the economic impact of energy choices, economic growth and sustainability and bilateral investment.


(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2007)

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