China must reform economy: US

Washington, March 15:

The US commerce secretary warned that China’s failure to reform its economic policies plays into the hands of US lawmakers eager to ‘build protectionist barriers around the US market.’

Carlos Gutierrez said the US-China trade relationship has become bogged down by a $202 billion trade deficit and by widespread piracy of US products. “If our economic relationship is to stay afloat,” Gutierrez told a crowd gathered for a luncheon sponsored by the Asia Society, “China needs to lighten the load by carrying out reforms and delivering results.”

Beijing, he said, must assume responsibility for strengthening the same international trade system that has boosted its impressive economic growth. As the White House prepares to welcome Chinese president Hu Jintao in April, US officials are increasingly voicing misgivings over what they call unfair Chinese ec-onomic practices that make it impossible for American workers to compete. Gutierrez noted Washington’s rising level of trade tension, saying that “when China fails to act, it only strengthens those who want to build protectionist barriers aro-und the US market. That’s the last thing we need.” Without better economic reform from China, he ad-ded, US officials “may be fo-rced to reassess our bilateral economic relationship.”

Lawmakers in recent months have introduced several bills that reflect a growing worry over China’s booming economy and its influence on American workers, including legislation that would revoke normal trade relations with China. Evidence of protectionism was also seen in a recent revolt by Congress over a decision by the administration of president George W Bush to allow a Dubai-based company to operate parts of six major US ports. The deal was scuttled when the company pulled out in the face of massive political protest.

And last year, China’s state-controlled CNOOC Ltd gave up an $18.5 billion takeover bid for Unocal Corp.

Industrial output

BEIJING: Strong exports underpinned growth in China’s industrial output to 16.2 per cent in the first two months of 2006 compared with a year earlier. The value-added output for state-owned and large non-state enterprises totaled $137 billion. Exports of industrial products rose by 24.2 per cent in January and February from a year earlier. Sedan output jumped by 83.1 per cent in the two months, reflecting the importance of the auto industry for the economy as a whole. — AFP