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US Official Sees Coming Improvements in Trade with China


Commerce Secretary Donald Evans says he has received assurances from Chinese officials that they will narrow the U.S.-China trade gap.

The U.S. official ended his eight-day China visit renewing his calls for Beijing to foster what he said would be a level playing field for American exports.

Mr. Evans said he is taking home Chinese assurances that improvements are forthcoming. Mr. Evans said he got a strong commitment from Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao that China will work hard to close the trade gap, although no details were given. U.S. officials say the U.S.-China trade deficit reached $103 billion last year and is expected to soar to $130 billion this year.

On Tuesday, Mr. Evans delivered a stern warning to China that the imbalance was fomenting protectionist sentiment in the United States, including moves in Congress to slap 27 percent tariffs on Chinese imports and other sanctions.

He also sought to reassure Beijing that the threats are coming from some members of Congress, and not from the White House.

"The Bush administration opposes those proposals," he said. "We are not in favor of those. But it is an indication of the sentiment in some parts of our economy that patience is wearing thin. We need to pick up the pace in terms of dealing with some of the unfair trade practices that we see, like subsidies, like lack of effective enforcement of intellectual property rights."

The Bush administration is under growing political pressure by labor groups and manufacturers to narrow the U.S.-China trade deficit by pushing China to further open its markets and re-value its currency, the yuan.

U.S. manufacturers blame China's cheap currency for a flood of inexpensive Chinese imports that they say are making American-made goods noncompetitive.

Some American economists, however, say a revaluation of the yuan would hurt American companies, since a large percentage of China's exports to the United States are produced by U.S.-China joint ventures.

Chinese officials are resisting calls for a revaluation of their currency. They have alleged that one reason for the bloated trade deficit is a current U.S. restriction on sales of high-tech products to China.

The United States bans sales of American-made high-tech products like supercomputers that could be used for military purposes. Secretary Evans said China is to blame for the restrictions because it does not allow U.S. officials to inspect the facilities where the technology would be used.