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By
Reuters
Published
Oct 22, 2009
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US pressing China on import surge causes

By
Reuters
Published
Oct 22, 2009

By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is pressing China to change policies that overfuel its exports and led to President Barack Obama slapping duties on Chinese-made tires last month, a U.S. trade official said on Thursday 22 October.



"We have been engaging them in a dialogue in a way to address the underlying causes of surges," Tim Reif, general counsel in the U.S. Trade Representative's office, said in a speech at the National Press Club.

That, rather than U.S. industry groups filing additional anti-import surge petitions, would be "perhaps the most effective way of addressing this ongoing trade policy challenge," Reif said.

The statement was the clearest signal yet that the Obama administration is not eager for new "Section 421" trade petitions, like the one that led Obama last month to slap a 35-percent duty on Chinese-made tires.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke travel to China next week for high-level talks.

Obama's decision angered China and prompted expectations that a slew of other U.S. industries would file their own requests from protection.

TEXTILES NEXT?

So far that has not happened, but U.S. textile producers have said they are considering a case.

In an interview with Reuters after his speech, Reif said he would not presume to tell any industry group not to ask for Section 421 import relief.

But "we are eager to look at the most effective solution to problems and typically that is not tracked into one single direction," Reif said.

U.S. trade officials "definitely are talking" to the Chinese about government policies that cause surges in the first place, Reif said.

Reif argued in his speech that Obama's tire decision was justified by the facts showing tire imports had nearly tripled in four years and U.S. industry suffered significant harm.

But "it is also notable that just 10 days or two weeks after the Section 421 decision, many of us worked shoulder to shoulder with colleagues in the Department of Agriculture and colleagues on the Hill to try to reopen the American market for imports of poultry from China," Reif said.

U.S. lawmakers agreed as part of a spending bill recently signed into law by Obama to end a two-year ban on imports of poultry processed in China under a plan that requires more inspections.

China has not yet dropped a case at the World Trade Organization challenging U.S. poultry import restrictions.

But Reif said the two countries have a good record of resolving trade spats before formal litigation begins.

"It's notable that half the cases we have with China in the WTO, we resolved without having need for engaging in a panel. It's a very interesting fact," Reif said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

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