Washington, April 12:

China, eager to smooth the path for US-bound president Hu Jintao, has vowed to tackle some of the biggest complaints levied by the United States over the two nations’ skewed trade.

Beijing used annual talks yesterday to trumpet new action against rampant copyright piracy and to lower some of the barriers facing US companies in sectors such as telecommunications and medical devices.

The meeting might take some of the sting out of the trade tensions as Hu prepares to come to the US in a week. But whether it will placate a chorus of complaints in Congress against China remains to be seen.

After the annual Sino-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), US commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez welcomed ‘clear progress’ in intellectual property rights (IPR) and market access. “The real outcome of this meeting, of course, will be known when we see the results,” he added.

From copyright theft to currency rates, from market barriers to beef bans, the US government at every level from president George W Bush down has made clear its displeasure to China on a number of commercial fronts.

Vice-Premier Wu Yi, the highest-ranking woman in China, used this year’s JCCT meeting to announce a spate of measures that went at least some way to massaging the US complaints. Wu, who has been touring the US at the head of a 200-plus delegation of businessmen, also said Chinese companies had signed 107 contracts with US firms worth $16.2 billion. Chinese airlines agreed to buy 80 next-generation Boeing 737 planes, worth $4.6 billion at list prices, in addition to an order for 70 737s announced in November during a visit to China by Bush.

The contracts will make a small dent in the US trade deficit with China, which last year exploded to a record-breaking $202 billion.

Wu, however, said it was ‘unscientific and unfair’ to put all the blame for the US trade problems at China’s door. Many economists agree that US consumers’ hunger for cheap imported goods, especially from China, and their zero savings rate have done much to drive up their country’s trade deficit. Wu said the US could also help itself by lifting security restrictions on exports of high technology to China. At the JCCT talks, Washington agreed to explore that issue through top-level talks.

Wu confirmed a government order requiring legal operating systems to be pre-loaded on all computers made or imported in China.

Tariff on imports

TAIPEI: Taiwan will impose higher tariffs on towel imports from China, the International Trade Commission (ITC) said. Details of the hike will be made at a follow-up meeting of the ITC, which is under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, scheduled for Friday. The decision came after the ITC last month found massive cheap towel imports from China had caused material injury to the local towel industry. — AFP

Key changes

• China agreed to reopen its market to US beef imports, blocked since 2003.

• China issued a directive requiring legal operating systems to be pre-loaded on all computers made or imported into China.

• China vowed to step up action against makers of pirated films, music and software.

• By the end of May, China expects to have lifted restrictions on imported medical devices.

• China agreed to talks with the US on creating a more level playing field for US telecommunications providers, including changes in equity requirements in joint ventures.

• Five years after joining the WTO, China agreed to launch talks on joining the WTO government procurement agreement.

• China also acceded to a key US request last week by notifying the WTO of the level of subsidies it confers on state enterprises.

• Washington also agreed to high-level talks on trade in high-technology exports to China, which are currently severely restricted on national security grounds.