Lawmakers press for action in China trade talks

WASHINGTON Sat Dec 1, 2012 2:21am IST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four senior lawmakers on Friday pressed for action on longstanding complaints about trade with China, as President Barack Obama's administration prepares to host senior Chinese officials for high-level talks in December.

"We are concerned that China continues to move away from market-based reforms and is more deeply embracing an economic model dominated by state-owned enterprises, World Trade Organization-inconsistent subsidies, and economic protectionism," the top Republicans and Democrats on the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee said in a letter to senior Obama administration officials.

"China's state capitalist model presents a range of issues that impact the future prosperity of the United States and the economic stability of the world," they said.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank are expected to host the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting in December, although exact dates have not been announced.

The annual meeting comes during a period of transition for both governments. Kirk is expected to leave office in the near future and Blank's continued service as Commerce secretary is uncertain in Obama's second term that begins in January.

China's ruling Communist Party unveiled a new top leadership in November. Vice President Xi Jinping took helm of the party, and will take over as head of state in March at the annual parliament meeting.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan has co-chaired the talks in recent years and remains part of the government, but it was not immediately clear if he would attend this year's meeting.

The U.S. lawmakers struck a weary tone in their letter as they noted their longstanding frustration with China's weak enforcement of intellectual property rights, opaque regulatory system and market access barriers.

"We have each written to you in the past about our key priorities and concerns. While incremental progress has been made, our list of concerns remains troublingly similar year-to-year," the lawmakers said.

(Reporting By Doug Palmer; Editing by Sandra Maler and Mohammad Zargham)

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