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US Business Community Urges More Chinese Involvement in Trade Negotiations

The American business community is calling on China to take a more active role in upcoming global trade negotiations in Hong Kong.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice-President for East Asia Myron Brilliant has a problem with China. He points to what he calls "unfinished business," in terms of China complying with the commitments promised when it entered the World Trade Organization in 2001.

"There are areas which are critical over the last year, year and a half, to see how they are going to be implemented," said Mr. Brilliant. "Distribution and trading rights, for example. They have made some progress in that area, but we will see how the implementing regulations actually take effect. In the area of service liberalization, 2006 is a critical milestone."

At the same time, though, Mr. Brilliant said he does not want these concerns to prevent the Chinese government from taking a more active role in global trade talks, so there can be more discussion of concerns vis-a-vis China.

His comments came Thursday in testimony to the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

"I do not want to give the Chinese an excuse," he added. "In fact, if anything, the reason they need to contribute to the WTO system is because they have as much at stake as we do in a global trading system. Having said that, they use the excuse that 'we have unfinished business in the WTO round. Therefore, we are not engaged in the global trade negotiations as much as we are in domestic market reform.' They need to do both. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. The Chinese need to be able to do that as well."

Some areas of special concern for the U.S. business community are access to the Chinese market and intellectual property rights violations. Mr. Brilliant applauded the Chinese government for moving to crack down on intellectual property rights piracy, but said the efforts so far are still not enough.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce official expressed concern that China has what he called a "strategic plan" to match its growing economic clout with a more aggressive foreign policy. He pointed to last month's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in South Korea.

"When we were in APEC, I found it very interesting that [Chinese] President Hu Jintao spoke at the APEC CEO summit, yet again, and President Bush did not. President Hu Jintao has been very strategic, as has Premier Wen Jiabao, in reaching out, not just to developing countries, but to the developed world," he noted.

Mr. Brilliant said Chinese leaders have been making overtures to countries in Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America. This, he adds, is evidence that although China has not yet taken a leading public role in global trade efforts, Beijing is still maneuvering in ways he describes as "significant" and "behind the scenes."