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US Trade Official Urges China to Open Markets to Help Redress Trade Imbalance

The top U.S. trade official has urged China to open its markets further and crack down on copyright violations, predicting that its trade surplus with the United States could grow by $40 billion this year. Rob Portman also urged the Chinese government to take an active role in rescuing free-trade talks ahead of the WTO summit in Hong Kong next month.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said in Beijing Monday that China's trade surplus with the United States could reach a record $200 billion this year.

Mr. Portman urged the Chinese government to help redress the balance by opening its markets to U.S. companies.

"China must open up more to our exports and investment. It must address limitations in market access that continue to hamper U.S. companies seeking to participate in the Chinese market," he said.

The trade official also said China needed to work harder to enforce intellectual property rights laws.

U.S. companies say they lose billions of dollars every year because of pirated goods made in China.

The United States is also seeking more active support from China, and other Asian nations, at the WTO ministerial conference in December in Hong Kong.

A dispute over how far to reduce agricultural subsidies and tariffs is threatening to derail the talks, with the United States and the European Union issuing rival proposals.

On Monday Mr. Portman blamed the European Union for holding up progress by refusing to cut its subsidies to farmers sufficiently.

"We've got to get the tariffs down," he said. "And, the European Union is, frankly, not willing to provide meaningful market access by reducing their tariffs and quotas."

Mr. Portman said he would like to see developing nations like China, who stand to benefit from freer trade in farm goods, play a more aggressive role in seeking a consensus at the WTO talks - also known as the Doha round.

"China and its neighbors in Asia have as much to gain as anyone from a successful Doha round because these countries in the Pacific Rim and China trade substantially," noted Mr. Portman. "That's why we need their voice at the negotiating table to push for an ambitious and successful result in the Doha round."

Mr. Portman said he is concerned that if an agreement is not reached next month on agriculture, it will be harder to make progress on other trade liberalization issues.