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Rosy and rocky time for Sino-US ties
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09:04, June 04, 2009

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The Obama administration begins its "two-pronged strategy of engagement and enforcement" with China this week on trade issues, highlighted by US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's recent visit to Beijing and International Trade Commission hearings on Chinese exports to the US.

Geithner, who visited China to assure the security of Treasury bonds held by China, gave Chinese leaders confidence in the US economy and government. Media said the visit laid the foundation for greater cooperation between the two nations.

However, US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk said Tuesday that the US will seek to resolve issues through dialogue when possible, but it wouldn't hesitate to take punitive measures if necessary, providing details of the Obama administration's approach to contentious trade issues with China for the first time, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As a matter of fact, hearings have already begun in Washington on a case brought by the United Steel Workers union (USW) against the International Trade Commission.
The USW filed the application with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) on April 20, asking for a special protection investigation into China-made pneumatic passenger-car tires.

The USW has said a surge in tire imports from China has disturbed the relevant US market and cost almost 7,000 US jobs.

The China Rubber Industry Association yesterday confirmed to the Global Times that representatives from the Tire Sub-association had joined the delegation sent by China's Minister of Commerce to attend the two-day hearing in Washington.

Chinese tire producer GITI Tire, one of the accused exporters in the case, argued that China was filling a need, citing major US tire producers abandoning lower-cost tire production, Reuters reported.

The union is currently asking the ITC to recommend cutting the import level to 21 million tires – the level seen in 2005.

That would be a massive drop from the 46 million tires imported by the US last year. The ITC is expected to make its decision by next month.

According to Kirk, shrinking the trade imbalance with China and gaining new access for US exports to China could mean "extraordinary opportunities for job creation" in the US.

Reuters reported that Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, had refused to enforce the ITC's recommendations on section 421 cases, the same law as cited in this USW's petition, but this will be the first time Obama is faced with the decision.

During his presidential campaign last year, Obama promised not to routinely reject petitions restricting imports from China as Bush did, earning Obama strong labor support.

But the Wall Street Journal said that given the importance of China in weathering the global crisis, the US has lost some leverage.

Following the recent ITC trade-remedy investigations, Vice Minister of China's Ministry of Commerce Zhong Shan stated in late April that China's domestic industries are also facing a huge impact from many products imported from the US.

Even if the US could exclude Chinese goods from the US market by means of trade-remedy measures, US domestic industries would not necessarily get out of trouble, Zhong said.

Source: Global Times



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