Legislators outline priorities, issues ahead of economic talks with China

Legislative leaders said on Tuesday that upcoming economic talks between the United States and China present an opportunity to address trade barriers and to encourage China to rebalance its economy.

House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) were among the lawmakers who outlined priorities in a letter to administration officials.

“This year’s U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) is occurring at an important time for multilateral trade,” the legislators said. “Last December, World Trade Organization (WTO) members finalized a trade facilitation agreement that holds meaningful potential for removing barriers and improving global trade flows. This agreement is particularly beneficial for developing countries and more developed emerging economies, like China. Prompt and full implementation is a top priority.”

The legislators expressed disappointment that an agreement to expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) hasn’t been finalized by WTO members. The expansion would create “substantial” economic opportunities for both the United States and China.

“We are increasingly concerned that China appears to be standing in the way of an ambitious deal, seeking instead to exclude significant products from coverage and demanding unnecessarily long phase-outs of tariffs,” the lawmakers said. “We emphasize that any final agreement must include important products that are priorities of U.S. information technology exporters.”

Domestic reforms have come slow to China, the lawmakers said, and its economic model is dominated by state-owned enterprises, trade-distorting subsidies, forced localization and economic protectionism. China also continues to implement retaliatory trade policies and to shirk international obligations.

“Furthermore, China still does not have adequate institutional arrangements to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) and has failed to fully implement its past commitments to strengthen and enforce IPR,” the lawmakers said. “China also continues to defy international rules by pursuing policies that discriminate against U.S. rights holders, including measures that compel or coerce the transfer of intellectual property to Chinese companies.”