- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2006

China’s vice prime minister said yesterday her country will crack down on the piracy of American intellectual property and lift restrictions on the import of American beef, part of an economic goodwill package intended to boost relations before next week’s visit by President Hu Jintao.

China this month is signing 106 contracts worth a total of $16.2 billion, including a $5 billion contract for the purchase of 80 Boeing aircraft. Microsoft, General Electric, General Motors and the National Basketball Association are other beneficiaries of the checkbook diplomacy.

Yesterday’s announcements came at the end of the annual meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, which meets to resolve trade concerns and promote bilateral communications.

This year’s meeting was headed by Chinese Vice Prime Minister Wu Yi , Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Trade Representative Rob Portman.

At a subsequent press conference, Miss Wu addressed a key U.S. concern by saying China will shut down plants that are illegally reproducing U.S. computer software and demand that all computers in her country use only legal operating systems.

The participants also announced that Beijing would lift a ban on the import of American beef as soon as a few technical problems are cleared.

This “is a very important decision,” said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, whose department is particularly concerned about a Japanese ban on U.S. beef prompted by concerns about mad cow disease. “It sent a signal to the rest of the world.”

Miss Wu began her 13-state tour of the United States a week ago, accompanied by a delegation of 202 Chinese businessmen. Among the deals being concluded this month are contracts with Microsoft, General Electric, General Motors and Motorola for software, power-generation equipment and auto parts. Miss Wu also attended a signing in California for Haier Group, a home-appliances maker, to be an NBA sponsor.

The Bush administration has been increasing its pressure on China to revalue its currency, provide better copyright protection and take other steps to reduce the growing U.S.-China trade deficit, which stood at $202 billion in 2005.

The Senate is considering two bills designed to punish China if it fails to let its currency float. One proposed by Sens. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, would trigger tariffs of up to 27.5 percent on China. Another written by Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, would call for the International Monetary Fund to cut loans to China.

Mr. Gutierrez said during a visit to Beijing last month that substantial progress on intellectual-property rights and improved market access for American goods would help reduce the trade deficit.

Miss Wu asked the United States yesterday “to relax the control of high-tech exports to China,” saying that also could help address the deficit problem.

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