Washington, October 21:

China has made some progress in resolving a series of long-standing trade disputes with the United States but more needs to be done in a number of areas, the administration’s top trade official for Asia said yesterday.

Deputy US trade representative Karan Bhatia said that he would review a number of commitments China made last spring when he holds talks next week with Chinese trade officials in Beijing.

He said that the government seemed to be fulfilling some pledges, such as an agreement to load legal software on all new computers sold in China. But he said in other areas, the Chinese have been less forthcoming.

“We are looking frankly for speedy resolution in areas where they have made policy commitments,” Bhatia said. In addition to the commitment on computer software, other commitments made by the Chinese involved other ways it planned to crack down on the sale of illegal pirated computer software and expanding the opportunity for the US and other foreign firms to compete for Chinese government contracts.

Bhatia’s trip is just the latest by administration officials seeking to show progress in dealing with America’s ballooning trade deficit with China, which hit a record $202 billion last year and is on track to exceed that amount this year.

In addition to discussions with government officials in Beijing, Bhatia was traveling to the Chinese cities of Dalian and Shenyang for meetings with local government officials and business leaders during five days of talks in China that will begin next Tuesday.

Before arriving in China, Bhatia planned a stop in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday for meetings with government officials, business groups and students to present administration views on the current free trade negotiations with South Korea.

Bhatia said the United States still has significant issues to resolve before it will be able to complete the free trade deal with South Korea or a separate free trade agreement that is being negotiated with Malaysia. Both sets of talks face a deadline for completition of the beginning of next year in order for the deals to be submitted to Congress before president George W Bush loses his

negotiating authority under the Trade Promotion Act, which is set to expire in July of next year.

Bhatia said both South Korea and Malaysia stood to gain a great deal economically by concluding agreements. He said the recent testing of nuclear device by North Korea underscored the need to close ties beween the United States and South Korea but did not have an impact on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the talks on tearing down trade barriers.

The fourth round of the US-South Korea trade talks are scheduled to be held next week in Jeju, South Korea. Those negotiations will be followed the next week in Kuala Lumpur with the third round of talks on a free trade agreement with Malaysia.

Bhatia said those talks had faced recent obstacles including debate inside the Malaysian government over negotiating positions in such areas as opening up bidding on government contracts to US companies. But Bhatia said the administration still believed a deal could be done before Bush’s negotiating authority expires next year.

“We are prepared to work as quickly as Malaysia wants to,” he said.