Commerce chief talks tough on China

Department to focus on reviving nation’s manufacturing base, Bryson says

In his first major policy address since joining President Obama’s Cabinet, Commerce Secretary John E. Bryson said his department will focus on reviving the nation’s manufacturing base as a way to create more jobs, while taking a tougher line against China over trade and investment barriers.

“One challenge stands above the rest: putting Americans back to work,” Mr. Bryson told a gathering Thursday morning at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It will be our focus every day at the Commerce Department.”

The department is focused on supporting advanced manufacturing, increasing U.S. exports, and attracting more investment here from around the world, he said.

Manufacturing remains crucial to the success of the American economy, said Mr. Bryson, a California utility executive who took office in October. The Commerce Department in touting the line, “Build it here, sell it everywhere.” The effort includes encouraging production of such items as composite materials, specialty chemicals and advanced health care technology.

“Many people have misconceptions about manufacturing,” Mr. Bryson said. “They hear the word, and they think of the old assembly lines. But today, when we say ‘manufacturing,’ we’re often talking about the cutting-edge industries of advanced manufacturing.”

The secretary also signaled the administration will be taking a tougher line on China’s market policies. Since joining the World Trade Organization a decade ago, U.S. officials say, China has made only mixed progress toward opening its markets to foreign companies.

“The United States has reached a point where we cannot quietly accept China ignoring many of the trade rules,” Mr. Bryson said. “China still substantially subsidizes its own companies, discriminates against foreign companies and has poor intellectual-property protections.”

Beijing has made some “promising commitments” in recent trade talks, but the Obama administration is looking for concrete results, Mr. Bryson said.

“Anything short of that will be unacceptable,” he said.

Mr. Bryson used the Chamber address to announce the formation of the new office designed to bring together industry, universities and government to focus on advanced manufacturing industries such as information technology, biotech and nanotechnology. The agency’s National Institute of Standards and Technology will also invest nearly $90 million in advanced manufacturing research next year, he said.

The U.S. is on track to meet Mr. Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2014, Mr. Bryson said, but more American firms need to be focusing on global opportunities.

“U.S. businesses are not exporting nearly as much as they could,” he said, adding that only 1 percent of American businesses export their products and services.

“Many companies would like to export - they have great products to sell - but they just aren’t sure how to get started,” he explained.

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