US to use ‘all available tools’ on China trade: USTR

By Doug Palmer ,Reutes

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Trade Representative’s office vowed on Thursday to make sure China honors its trade commitments, but did not lay out any specific new cases it plans to bring.

“Given the importance of this growing trade relationship, the United States will use all available tools in 2012 to ensure that China engages in fair play on trade and that U.S. exporters have a fair shot to compete,” the USTR said in its annual report on the president’s trade agenda. The latest promise to get tough with China comes after the U.S. trade deficit with the Asian heavyweight rose for a second straight year in 2011 to a record US$295 billion. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has criticized Obama for not doing more to “crack down on China for stealing jobs” and pledged to take action against Beijing over its currency practices if he wins the White House. Obama has responded by creating an Interagency Trade Enforcement Unit he says will draw on new and existing resources from throughout the executive branch to make sure China and other countries comply with trade rules. USTR’s report did not identify any new trade cases that Washington might bring against Beijing, but said enforcement efforts would focus on ending unfair Chinese subsidies and policies that discriminate against U.S. firms. China committed to lower tariffs on thousands of goods and make other market-opening reforms when it joined the WTO in 2001. U.S. officials complain Beijing has backslid on these reforms since 2006, increasing the state’s role in what is now the world’s second largest economy. The United States also has pressed China to move more quickly to a market-oriented exchange rate, saying Beijing keeps its currency at an artificially low value against the dollar to give its companies an unfair advantage in international trade. “We will also continue to press China to open investment opportunities, to complete negotiations to join the WTO Government Procurement Agreement by offering comprehensive coverage of its procurement, and to increase transparency and eliminate market access barriers in areas ranging from agricultural goods to services,” the trade office said.