U.S., China Sign Trade Deals

China also pledged to keep off the books rules on 'indigenous innovation,' which state that high-tech goods must hold Chinese intellectual property rights.

The United States and China agreed on Dec. 16 to pursue free trade in areas from technology to agriculture, but Beijing insisted that Washington needed to loosen its own export controls.

Top officials from the world's two largest economies met for two days in Washington to try to iron out persistent tensions -- including over the value of China's currency, which the United States says is artificially low.

The United States said China also pledged to remain "neutral" on the technological standards for third-generation telephones along with smart grids, so as to permit market access for American companies.

"We were able to make progress on significant issues in a number of areas, and on other issues we have established channels that will allow us to continue our robust engagement and pursue timely solutions," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said.

Vice Premier Wang Qishan, who headed the 100-strong Chinese delegation, said the two sides had a "candid exchange of views on China-US economic cooperation."

"We've reached many agreements and produced positive outcomes," he said.

But the Chinese side also called for the United States to relax its export controls -- turning the tables on the United States, which frequently presses Beijing to open its markets. "In our efforts to increase our imports, we very much hope that those countries still having a trade deficit vis-a-vis China could lift or relax export controls towards China," Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said.

"Therefore if the United States could offer substantial export facilitation to China, and allow an increase of its exports to China, this would be a help against the high unemployment rate in the United States today," he said.

The United States restricts a range of goods to China that are "dual-use" -- meaning that the technology could be put to military use. U.S. businesses have also long worried about counterfeiting of products in China.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said that China agreed to do more to crack down on theft of intellectual property theft. "We expect to see concrete and measurable results, including increased purchase and use of legal software, steps to eradicate the piracy of electronic journals, more effective rules for addressing Internet piracy and a crackdown on landlords who rent space to counterfeiters in China," Kirk said.

US officials said that China also pledged to keep off the books rules on "indigenous innovation," which state that high-tech goods must hold Chinese intellectual property rights. China rescinded such guidelines early this year after an international outcry.

Topping other concerns, U.S. officials -- and particularly members of Congress -- have pressed China to let its currency appreciate, accusing Beijing of keeping its yuan low to pump out more exports. Chen said China "has stated again and again its firm position" that it will reform its yuan "to improve the flexibility of the exchange rate regime and also to stabilize the value of the currency."

But Chen questioned if the size of the U.S. trade surplus had been overestimated, saying that China often exports back finished products made of components imported from the United States. Such trade "is hardly affected by the fluctuations of currencies," he said.

After the meeting Chen told reporters that Beijing hopes the US economy will quickly recover because it will benefit the world economy, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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