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China Warns US WTO Complaint Could Damage Trade

The Chinese government says the United States' complaints to the World Trade Organization over product piracy could damage trade relations between the two countries. The U.S. government says illegal copying of books, movies and software in China costs American companies billions of dollars a year. VOA's Kate Pound Dawson reports from Hong Kong.

China's Commerce Ministry expressed "great regret" at the U.S. decision. Ministry officials say Washington has not fully taken into account China's efforts to fight copyright piracy and said the U.S. action could cause a "negative impact" on trade.

The United States plans to file complaints with the World Trade Organization over illegal copying of U.S. products in China, and over Chinese restrictions on imports of U.S. books, music and movies.

China's trade surplus with the United States hit a record $232 billion last year.

Many U.S. business leaders, labor activists, and politicians say the surplus means lost jobs in the United States. They argue it is caused, at least in part, by China's restrictive import practices, its weak currency, and its pirating of intellectual property such as movies.

Despite tough talk on both sides, the vice president of the U.S. China Trade Council in Beijing, Robert Poole, says the relationship between the two countries is strong enough to withstand such disagreements.

"A mature or a broad trading relationship has plenty of room for there to be disputes that ideally can be settled through dialogue... but if necessary can go to a third party, an objective party like the WTO, without it being a trade war or a political development," he said.

China reports its global trade surplus in March plunged almost 72 percent, to $6.9 billion, from February's level of $24 billion. The trade figure for the United States was not released.

But trade experts say the March drop probably was a one-time event that may be linked to China's plans to cut tax rebates for exports - factories may have rushed orders out early to be eligible for the rebates.

Poole says while China is trying to cut its trade surplus, it is a slow process.

"The consensus among economists seems to be that China's trade surpluses are likely to continue to grow for some time ahead," he added. "The country wishes to stimulate more domestic consumption, but that is a process that will take more time."

Poole notes that China is sending a delegation to the United States in the coming months specifically to purchase U.S. goods. He says that may help reassure U.S. businesses that China is open to imports.

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