U.S. senators press China on beef, software, yuan

  • World
  • Tuesday, 07 Dec 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of 32 senators on Monday pressed China to show "concrete progress" on beef, intellectual property and other trade irritants at a high-level meeting with U.S. officials next week.

The group, representing nearly one-third of the Senate, also urged China to let its currency "to appreciate meaningfully in advance of President Hu's visit" to the United States, which is expected Jan 17-20.

The letter to Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan laid down a marker for the annual U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting on Dec. 14-15 in Washington.

"The United States and China cannot just talk about hurdles in our trade relationship - we need to overcome them," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said in a statement accompanying the letter.

"China's ineffective protection of intellectual property rights, discriminatory innovation practices and barriers to U.S. beef exports have long presented hurdles for American businesses and ranchers exporting to China," Baucus said.

Wang will lead a delegation of about 100 Chinese officials coming to Washington for the talks.

The meeting is co-chaired for the United States by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

In a move aimed at addressing U.S. concerns about copyright theft, Beijing promised the United States in 2006 that Chinese government agencies and state-owned enterprises would use only licensed software.

The senators said China failed to honor that commitment. They asked Wang to ensure China would in a timely fashion and also allow U.S. intellectual property rights holders such as Microsoft "to verify the legitimacy of the software used by these entities."

The senators also complained about a web of Chinese regulation they said banned all imports of U.S. beef.

"There is no scientific basis for any of these restrictions on U.S. beef imports. We therefore urge China to take immediate, material steps that demonstrate its commitment to open its market to all ages and cuts of U.S. beef," they said.

Some of the restrictions stem from the discovery of mad cow disease in the U.S. cattle herd in 2003. A number of countries closed their markets to U.S. beef at the time and the United States continues to battle to get some reopened.

The senators acknowledged that one of the biggest trade irritants, China's currency policy, is not on the official agenda for the JCCT.

But they warned if Beijing did not take action soon on that front, the Senate could pass legislation already approved by the House of Representative to address China's "persistent currency undervaluation."

The senators also criticized the terms of China's most recent offer to join the World Trade Organization's Government Procurement Agreement. They urged Beijing "to submit a new offer that is comparable to the commitments the United States and other parties to the GPA have made."

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Anthony Boadle and Chris Wilson)

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