Lawmakers urge firm U.S. line on China in bilateral talks

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 9, 2013 8:03pm EDT

Committee Chairman U.S. Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) (L) and ranking member Representative Sander Levin (D-MI) (R) during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the status of the IRS's targeting of political groups, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Committee Chairman U.S. Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) (L) and ranking member Representative Sander Levin (D-MI) (R) during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the status of the IRS's targeting of political groups, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers influential on trade policy urged the Obama administration on Tuesday to press China in talks this week to halt the theft of intellectual property and curb practices that discriminate against American companies.

The letter to Obama cabinet officials on the eve of the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue contained a laundry list of complaints, from software piracy to market and regulatory barriers and forced technology transfer.

"We remain very concerned that China has halted - and in many cases reversed - its market reforms," the lawmakers said in the letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

"China must move away from an economic model dominated by state-owned enterprises, trade-distorting subsidies, and economic protectionism," the bipartisan group wrote.

"The theft of proprietary information threatens to undermine our economic relationship, is unacceptable, and must stop," they said, noting that much of the theft was done by cyber means.

The lawmakers voiced support for the five-year-old Strategic and Economic Dialogue process between the world's two biggest economies, but said China has been "woefully inadequate and incomplete" in implementing past agreements and called for more U.S. scrutiny.

The letter was signed by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Republican; Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat; House Ways and Means Committee ranking Democrat Sandy Levin; and Senate Finance Committee ranking Republican Orrin Hatch.

The Obama administration must "use meaningful metrics to measure progress and to be aggressive in ensuring that China is fully implementing its commitments and doing so in a commercially meaningful way," said the letter.

Among the Chinese practices the lawmakers said required more U.S. pressure to change were "indigenous innovation" policies that require foreigners to transfer technology to China in order to sell into the market, unscientific barriers to beef and other farm goods and favoritism to China's state sector.

EXCHANGE RATE

They also repeated longstanding concerns that China deliberately keeps it currency undervalued to make its exports more competitive in international markets.

"China must stop intervening massively and in one direction in the foreign exchange markets, and move more rapidly towards allowing the renminbi exchange rate to be set by market forces," wrote the lawmakers.

There was no immediate response to the letter, but U.S. officials outlining Washington's priorities for the July 10-11 talks in Washington outlined a similar agenda.

"We'll continue to, of course, push on exchange rates and to try to push forward on the market determination of both exchange rates and interest rates," a senior Obama administration official told reporters on Monday.

The official said the U.S. delegation would also raise regulatory and financial favoritism toward Chinese state-owned enterprises and other policies "putting them at a competitive advantage and our companies at a disadvantage."

Beyond specific trade and financial issues, U.S. officials say they want to use this week's talks to learn more about economic reform plans circulating in Beijing under President Xi Jinping, who took office in March.

Kerry and Lew will host a Chinese delegation led by State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang.

Lew, who visited Beijing shortly after Xi and a new cabinet led by Premier Li Keqiang took office, said he detected signs that some changes advocated by the United States were gaining traction in Beijing.

"If I had to guess, we're going to see the direction of change be clear, that the moves toward more market-oriented reforms will be clear," Lew told CNN, according to a transcript of an interview conducted on Monday.

"But the pace will probably be slower than we would like, or, frankly, than would be good for the Chinese people," he said.

China has concerns of its own about U.S. policy.

Beijing has long demanded that Washington ease Cold War-era controls on the export of high technology and clarify the approval process for Chinese acquisitions of America companies. Chinese investments in U.S. assets sometimes draw opposition from U.S. lawmakers.

(Additional reporting by Anna Yukhananov and Doug Palmer; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (8)
gacha wrote:
And the lawmakers: “China needs to stop being China so the United States can still be the United States.”

What do these US lawmakers and a squirrel have in common? They both run up a tree when someone walks by.

The PRC ain’t perfect. But you know what? Like ol’ Sunzi (or Sun Tzu, your pick) put it: “Know yourself, know the other guy, and you’ll win a hundred times.”

Buncha whiny provincial wimps. Wanna get with China boys? Put money into programs. Thousands of students from the US studying Chinese. Use your resources. Chinese students have been studying the US inside and out since the 19C.

All you guys got to show for knowledge is a bad attitude and no cojones. The PRC government practically gives away scholarships and invitations to study their culture. Get with the program. I’m so tired of hearing these ignorant weasels try to “put pressure” on China. The Pressure is ON YOU. Whatcha gonna do?

Jul 09, 2013 9:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
StephanLarose wrote:
We should boycott trade with this communist tyranny altogether. I know rich corporate shareholders like the enhanced profit they make using China’s slave-like labor conditions, but it hasn’t been exactly good for the rest of us. Let’s stop giving China money and invest here instead of abroad in third world sweat shops.

Corporation love the idea of every worker in the world accepting sweatshop conditions, that’s why the lobby for trade rules that make workers protected by hard won rights in the West compete with sweatshop labor, it makes them more “flexible” to accept a life of indentured servitude living in fear and anxiety paycheck to paycheck wondering if they’ll be able to feed their kids next week while shareholders wonder what color to paint their next 200 foot yacht.

So long as we allow greed and corruption to run rampant, our country will continue its moral and economic decline and slowly obliterate itself.

Jul 09, 2013 10:27pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Put pressure on China? There’s a problem here. China owns America. We’ve borrowed enough money from China to guarantee that they can pull the plug and screw up the entire American economy. Let’s give money to “whoever” and help them out. We have to borrow from China to do that. America, we’ve mortgaged ourselves to the Chinese.

Jul 09, 2013 10:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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