- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2003

From combined dispatches

Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans yesterday said U.S. patience is wearing thin with the slow pace of China’s efforts to open its market to American products.

“The American market will not remain open to Chinese exports indefinitely if the Chinese market is not equally opened to U.S. companies and American workers,” Mr. Evans said in a speech.

Separately, he warned China’s prime minister that Washington will “vigorously enforce” its trade laws if Beijing fails to move faster on meeting commitments to open its markets, he told reporters.

Mr. Evans’ warning to Prime Minister Wen Jiabao came amid mounting U.S. pressure for China to meet commitments made when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 to open markets to foreign competitors.

“This trading relationship needs work — a lot of work,” he said in remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing.

The U.S. trade deficit with China hit $103 billion last year and could top $130 billion this year. American manufacturers complain they have lost 2.7 million jobs over the past three years, largely because of Chinese competition.

Mr. Evans said that U.S.-Chinese trade is vital to national interests and the global economy, but he warned that protectionist sentiment is rising in the United States.

“The message must be heard loud and clear: China must move faster by opening markets, dropping trade barriers and letting market forces determine economic decisions,” he said.

But Mr. Evans said he told Mr. Wen that any U.S. actions would comply with WTO rules. They forbid most unilateral trade sanctions but let member governments impose emergency restrictions on imports that threaten their industries.

Mr. Evans said his meeting with Mr. Wen was initially scheduled to be 30 minutes but stretched to more than two hours as they discussed a wide range of trade issues.

The prime minister acknowledged that China needs to “work aggressively” to widen market access, Mr. Evans said.

China’s government didn’t immediately give its own account of the meeting. But the official Xinhua news agency quoted a senior trade official as telling Mr. Evans earlier yesterday that China was trying to buy more U.S. goods.

“China hopes to achieve a basic balance in its foreign trade, and has worked hard for it,” Vice Commerce Minister Yu Guangzhou was quoted as saying. “China encourages its firms to buy products from the United States, and will expand imports from the United States.”

American officials have cautioned that Beijing’s failure to meet WTO commitments could jeopardize its access to U.S. markets. A group of lawmakers have proposed repealing China’s normal-trade status and imposing 27.5 percent tariffs — up from an overall U.S. average of less than 2 percent.

Mr. Evans said he told Mr. Wen that Washington is especially irritated about China’s failure to stop piracy of music, movies and software.

Staff writer Jeffrey Sparshott contributed to this report.

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