China opens up market to supply of US goods

Agence France Presse

Washington, April 22:

China offered greater market access to US goods and pledged to step up enforcement against copyright infringement after key ministerial talks yesterday which saw the clinching of eight trade-boosting agreements.

“The meeting proved to be a complete success,” a beaming Chinese vice-premier Wu Yi told a news conference before the signing of letters of intent and memoranda of understanding among officials of the two countries.

US trade representative Robert Zoellick said Wu presented an action plan at the talks to “significantly” reduce infringements of intellectual property rights (IPR), a primary concern of multinational corporations in China. He said China gave a commitment at the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting to “complete and promulgate” new laws to crack down on IPR piracy.

Wu explained that an essential element of that effort was “lowering the threshold for criminal penalty” for offenders based on a “newly formulated judicial interpretation which explicitly stipulates measures for criminal punishment for all kinds of IPR infringements.”

“The IPR topic was one of the most important topics covered in the meeting,” Wu said, adding, “We never shy away from facing this problem and we value very much the US concerns about the issue.”

Zoellick said China also agreed to accelerate steps to allow US companies to import, export, distribute and sell their products in the world’s most populous nation without going through state trading companies.

Specifically, he said, China agreed to bring forward by six months to July 1 its implementation of a recently-passed law allowing such direct trading rights.

One agreement signed yesterday commits the United States to developing a technical assistance programme to train Chinese officials on the “development and enforcement” of IPR rules.

The other pacts allow US shipping companies to open full branches in China, paving the way for increased US exports to China of high-technology items subject to appropriate safeguards.

They also allow the resumption of US cosmetics imports by China previosly suspended on public health grounds, and set up a framework to iron out differences pertaining to food safety.

The US Chamber of Commerce immediately welcomed China’s commitments but said they

“must be followed by concrete, verifiable steps.”