* US says China duties on steel violate world trade rules
* Wants promised access to electronic payments market
* US trade gap with China hit record $273.1 bln in 2010
(Adds background, quotes)
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, Feb 11 The United States said on Friday
it had asked the World Trade Organization to rule on two disputes
with China -- one on restrictions Beijing has imposed on U.S.
specialty steel exports and the other on access to its vast credit
and debit card payments market.
The announcement came just after a Commerce Department report
showing the U.S. trade deficit with China grew 20.4 percent in 2010
to a record $273.1 billion.
"We are troubled by the procedures and decision-making employed
by China in its trade remedy investigations, which have now led to
serious restrictions on exports of American steel," U.S. Trade
Representative Ron Kirk said.
"We also remain deeply concerned about China's continuing efforts
to reserve its domestic payment card market for one state-owned
enterprise, to the exclusion of American credit and debit card
The steel case involves Chinese duties imposed on potentially
hundreds of millions of dollars of "grain-oriented flat-rolled
electrical steel" (GOES) made by AK Steel Corp of Ohio and Allegheny
Ludlum of Pennsylvania.
The United States charges that China, without sufficient evidence
of unfair U.S. pricing practices or government subsidies, began an
investigation that led to anti-dumping and countervailing duties of
more than 100 percent on the American-made steel, the trade office
It also alleges other WTO violations in the course of China's
investigation and said on Friday the case appeared to be part of a
"We have watched with growing concern China's resort to
additional duties on U.S. exports," Kirk said.
In the electronic payments case, the United States accuses China
of failing to meet a commitment to open its market to foreign firms
by December 2006. Most of the world's top providers of electronic
payment services for credit and debit cards are headquartered in the
United States, the trade office said.
Several hundred billion dollars worth of electronic payment
transactions were processed in China in 2010.
Over the past decade, the People's Bank of China has issued
regulations that give China UnionPay a monopoly over the handling of
transactions done in China's domestic currency while excluding other
potential suppliers, the U.S. trade representative said.
"Opening up China's market, as China committed to do over four
years ago, would create American jobs for the U.S. suppliers of
electronic payment services and a more efficient payment card system
in China would be beneficial for both merchants and consumers," Kirk
Once a WTO dispute settlement panel is formed, it typically takes
12 to 18 months for a final public decision.
U.S. Commerce Undersecretary Francisco Sanchez, at a separate
briefing on the trade data, defended the Obama administration's
overall handling of U.S.-China trade.
"I don't believe (the new record deficit) is evidence of a failed
trade policy," Sanchez said. "On the contrary, you have to look at
our numbers overall and our numbers overall are goods. Our exports to
China grew by 34 percent."
U.S. goods exported to China totaled $91.9 billion in 2010 while
imports from China rose 24 percent to $364.9 billion.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Eric Beech and Bill Trott)