US mulls ending restrictions

Beijing (China Daily/ANN) - The United States may loosen its restrictions on high-tech exports to China, Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said at the fourth round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

According to Chen, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said at the talks on Thursday that there would soon be substantial progress in easing those restrictions on exports to China.

"I hope I'll have enough patience, and that the day of easing the export controls is not far off," Chen said.

Currently, the US has restrictions on the export of more than 2,400 types of products to China.

Those restrictions, according to Chen, are the reason for China's trade surplus with the US.

"It is difficult for two countries to balance bilateral trade if there are too many export restrictions between them," Chen said.

The US reported its trade deficit with China reached an all-time high of $295.5 billion last year, up 8.2 percent from 2010.

Despite repeated pledges from the US government, however, recent incidents indicate the US is tightening its trade policies with China to an extent, analysts said.

The US is considering easing limitations on the export of commercial satellites, for example, but singled China out.

"It seems that the US is still fine-tuning its economic policies toward China, which makes the dialogue more meaningful at the moment," said Song Hong, a researcher of international trade at the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

According to Song, the resumption of a bilateral investment treaty between China and the US is a highlight for the fourth round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

"It will be a breakthrough to further deepen the economic and trade ties between the world's two biggest economies," said Song. "Meanwhile, because 2012 is an election year in the US, this round of talks is more important than ever because it will probably lay the foundation for the two countries' future relationship."

China and the US will open a seventh round of talks on a bilateral investment treaty as soon as possible, Chen said.

Derek Scissors, economist at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said the US and China still have a long way to go to reach an agreement on the bilateral investment treaty.

"There are very serious obstacles to overcome, for example the ongoing protection of Chinese State-owned enterprises from competition. Politics can always trump economics but, on economic grounds, a Sino-American bilateral investment treaty is a long distance away," Scissors said.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, trade between China and the US reached a record high of $446.7 billion in 2011. US exports to China hit $122.2 billion last year, up 20 percent year-on-year. China and the US are now each other's second-largest trading partners.

Zhang Yansheng, director of the Institute for International Economic Research under the National Development and Reform Commission, said the US and China should try their best to reduce political interference in economic issues.

"A major concern for both in the dialogues should be how to minimize the political impact on economic issues in this election year," Zhang said.

Also on Thursday, Commerce Minister Chen said China had a trade surplus of more than $10 billion in April, with imports and exports posting a slower growth rate.

"On one side, international trade volume fell globally due to the economic slowdown. On the other side, the Labor Day holiday partly led to the slower growth rate," Chen said after attending the talks.

He said China's export growth would be less than 10 percent in April.

"The demand from EU countries and Japan remains sluggish, but the trade volume between China and the US is increasing," Chen added.

Tan Yingzi in Washington contributed to this story.

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