* China trade mission includes top company executives
* Chicago, Boston among other U.S. cities on agenda
By Chris Baltimore
HOUSTON, Jan 17 The Chinese government kicked off a four-day U.S. trade mission on Monday by signing six deals in Houston with undisclosed U.S. companies worth $600 million, according to Chinese state media reports.
The deals came a day before Chinese President Hu Jintao arrives in the United States for a visit being billed as the most important U.S.-China summit since Deng Xiaoping's visit to Washington 30 years ago.
China's vice commerce minister, Wang Chao, led a business delegation to Houston, signing two cotton import agreements, an agreement on import of assembly kits, an agreement on "development and application of efficient crystalline silicon solar cells and photovoltaic generation system," and a deal on porcelain imports, said state media outlet Xinhua.
An official with the Chinese Consulate in Houston declined to provide details on the companies involved.
Wang's Houston delegation included 120 government and business officials, said the Greater Houston Partnership, the city's business development arm.
It included chief executives from some of China's largest firms in the areas of trade, health, biotechnology, real estate, manufacturing, banking and education, the Partnership said.
Chinese officials and company representatives will hold similar events in Washington, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Frankfort, Kentucky, this week.
Business deals worth potentially tens of billions of dollars could be announced, but U.S. industry officials have been hesitant to estimate a dollar amount.
In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama and Hu are expected to discuss a wide range of issues, including stability on the Korean peninsula and simmering tensions over a ballooning trade gap.
The U.S. trade deficit with China is expected to hit $270 billion this year. The two countries blame each other for causing problems in international commerce. (Editing by Peter Cooney)