Trade relations between China and the United States are seeing new opportunities and challenges since China became a member of the World Trade Organization last December. They will develop stably in the face of any possible problems for this is in the interests of both countries, said an official with China's Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation.
In an interview with the People's Daily, the unnamed trade official stressed that the steady development of trade between China and the United States is important not only to the two countries but also to the world.
The official pointed out that trade ties between China and the US have developed soundly over the last two decades and have become an important aspect in the relationship between the two countries.
The United States is China's second biggest trade partner while the Chinese mainland is the fourth trade partner of the United States. Statistics from the General Administration of Customs show that the gross trade volume between the two countries came to US$600 billion between 1979 and 2001.
By the end of last year, more than 300 companies among the US top 500 had invested in China. The US has a total investment of US$35 billion here.
Since China became a WTO member in December 2001, trade relations between China and the US have witnessed new opportunities and challenges.
Under the bilateral agreement on China's entry into the WTO, the US Congress approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations status for China and stopped the annual review of China's trade status.
The ministry official called this a historic landmark in the Sino-US relationship. It cleared the obstacles that used to impede the bilateral relationship and trade development, and laid a solid base for the further growth of trade ties of the two countries, the official added.
Before China joined the WTO, trade disputes with the US often resulted in retaliation, which caused trade relations or even the bilateral relationship to deteriorate.
China's WTO membership makes it possible to resort to the dispute-settlement mechanism of the WTO. This is a good way to seek a fair solution to trade disagreements between China and the US according to international law, the official said.
However, there are still negative factors hampering dynamic trade growth, the official warned. One factor is that, when China's Permanent Normal Trade Relations status was approved, the US Congress added some clauses that were irrelevant to trade issues. These additional clauses cast a shadow on the development of Sino-US trade relations.
The US Government still maintains strict limits on exports of technology to China. These impose extra difficulties on normal technology trade between the two countries.
Chinese enterprises have lost in many lawsuits because the US Government defines China as a "non-market economy." As a result, many Chinese commodities are perceived as dumped goods when their prices are compared with those of other countries' goods.
The ministry official said it had not been an easy job for the two countries to bring trade relations to as good a stage as they are now, which makes the situation more precious.
Given the gap between the two countries in terms of their social systems, history, cultures and traditions, it is only natural that problems occur, the official said. As long as both governments stick to the interests of both peoples and as long as the major thrust of the relationship develops, trade relations between China and the US are sure to advance steadily, added the official.
Chinese exports to the US mainly comprise shoes, other clothing, toys, automatic data processors, machinery, electrical appliances and electronic equipment. High-tech products have accounted for an ever-increasing proportion in recent years.
US products exported to China are mainly planes, chemical fertilizers, power-station equipment, and electronic and chemical machinery. As the Chinese market becomes more open, more room will be available for US commodities. Both governments attach great importance to their close trade ties. In recent years, government leaders of China and the US have communicated with each other with unprecedented frequency.
President Jiang Zemin visited the US in 1997 and former US President Bill Clinton made a trip to China in 1998. After Premier Zhu Rongji visited the US in 1999, President George W. Bush met President Jiang in October 2001 during the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit and is now in Beijing on a working visit.
The meetings between state leaders have helped the two countries gain a better understanding of each other and have contributed considerably to strengthening bilateral ties and stimulating trade relations, the official pointed out. Communication between businesses in the two countries will help bilateral trade relations develop more vigorously and with greater momentum, the official added.
(China Daily February 22, 2002)