- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2004

President Bush’s national advisory committee on international trade yesterday recommended that China take steps to revalue its currency and eliminate practices that curtail American exports, while chiding the U.S. government for its own visa policy that makes it difficult for Chinese customers to visit American suppliers.

“I hope this report will enable the administration and the president to continue to focus on China as really one of … the most significant economic opportunities for America in history,” said James C. Morgan, vice chairman of the President’s Export Council and chief executive for Applied Materials, a Santa Clara, Calif., technology company.

China has been a fast-growing market for U.S. exporters, but record trade deficits and stiff competition from low-cost Chinese manufacturers have turned the Asian nation into the chief rival for many struggling companies.

The Bush administration has rejected calls from some Democrats, their allies in organized labor and besieged industries to attack China more actively through new trade barriers and lawsuits at the World Trade Organization.

The administration has responded to industry petitions, raising duties on Chinese furniture, shrimp, some apparel and other select products. But the president’s trade team has focused on prying open China’s markets through cooperation and negotiations.

The administration has made progress in some areas, including Chinese concessions on tax policy and technology standards, but has made less headway elsewhere.

The U.S. trade deficit with China reached $124.1 billion last year and was $68.5 billion through June, the Commerce Department said.

The export council report, discussed and adopted yesterday, urges the administration to pursue “a clear-eyed, close and continued collaboration between the United States and China” to resolve trade differences.

The council is the administration’s principal national advisory committee on international trade and includes 28 corporate members, as well as U.S. lawmakers and Cabinet officials.

Grant Aldonas, Commerce Department undersecretary for international trade, said the report would help set the administration’s agenda when he returns to China next month for a meeting on trade issues.

The council repeated many oft-heard complaints about China, including an undervalued currency — which makes China’s exports cheaper — unclear and arbitrarily applied laws and regulations; piracy of movies, music, software and other products; and violations of WTO rules.

“If improvements are made in these areas, China’s foreign market would expand, and U.S. companies would sell more products and services to China,” the council said in a section of the report that will be presented to China’s trade minister next month.

But the business leaders also criticized the U.S. government for not doing enough to help companies, placing them at a disadvantage compared with European and Asian competitors for a share of the Chinese market.

The report said U.S. immigration policy makes it difficult for potential Chinese customers to acquire visas, enter the country and visit suppliers.

A June report by the Association for Manufacturing and Technology said post-September 11 travel restrictions have cost U.S. exporters more than $30 billion as foreign business representatives face time-consuming obstacles to entering the country and buying American goods or working in their U.S. offices.

The council also recommended more government resources and better government staff in China to help businesses enter the market.

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