Beijing, November 13:

US commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez met Chinese trade officials here today as he began a visit aimed at gaining greater access to China’s markets for US goods and halting copyright piracy.

Gutierrez went into a morning meeting with his Chinese counterpart, commerce minister Bo Xilai, during which he would push to “strip away impediments to US exports,” according to a US Commerce Department statement. The issue is top of the US trade agenda again after another record US deficit with China.

The trade gap was $23 billion in September, up from $22 billion in August, as imports from China rose by 3.3 per cent to a record $27.6 billion, the department said last week.

“This is now my fourth visit to China. That shows the importance that we place on our relationship with the People’s Republic of China and how important it is for the future,” Gutierrez said. “We are working off a very positive foundation.”

Though US exports to China’s booming economy have also risen, Gutierrez said before departing for China that the imbalance must be addressed. “US exports to China are already at record levels but we’re not satisfied — there’s room to grow,” he said. “While China is more open than before, much progress must still be made to provide fair access to American exporters and businesses.”

US critics charge that China keeps its currency weak to gain an unfair trade advantage, allowing it to boost exports at the expense of US manufacturing jobs. The Democratic Party’s victory in last week’s Congressional polls is widely expected to make for a harder US line on trade disputes with China.

Gutierrez, who arrived with a delegation of 25 American business leaders, is expected to raise such issues at a joint committee on commerce and trade, of which he is co-chairman.

Gutierrez and Chinese officials will discuss ‘policy issues that US businesses and delegation members face when doing business in China.’

Gutierrez will preside over a deal-signing ceremony today between Motorola and two Chinese companies, and a separate deal involving Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. He will give a speech tomorrow at a copyright protection roundtable hosted by US ambassador Clark Randt.

The delegation travels to the financial hub of Shanghai on Wednesday where Gutierrez will visit the China International Tourism Mart to highlight the importance of Sino-US travel industry relations.

Action against EU

BEIJING: The Chinese government has thrown its weight behind domestic shoe makers who plan to file a suit against the European Union (EU) over tariffs imposed on shoe imports. The EU decided last month to impose an anti-dumping tariff of 16.5 per cent on imports of Chinese shoes with leather uppers from October 7, against strong opposition from Chinese shoe makers. — AFP

Growth by 9.5pc

BEIJING: China’s economy is likely to maintain its rapid pace of growth next year, wi-th GDP expanding at 9.5 per cent as authorities continue to tighten monetary policy and slowly push up the value of the yuan. China’s rapid economic growth that set a 10.7 per cent pace over the January-September period, has forced to take measures to ward off overheating in the economy from much li-quidity and investment. — AP