US to hold pivotal trade talks with China, then EU

* U.S.-Chinese trade talks set stage for Hu-Obama summit

* U.S. lawmakers want measurable commitments from China

* EU and U.S. to discuss cutting regulatory barriers

By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON, Dec 12 (BestGrowthStock) – The United States will hold
high-level trade talks with China and the European Union this
week, testing the Obama administration’s ability to tear down
barriers that impede U.S. exports and economic growth.

The United States and China will cap a rocky year of trade
relations with two days of meetings beginning on Tuesday. The
United States on Thursday will then shift from transpacific to
transatlantic relations for talks with the EU.

The separate dialogues present distinctly different
challenges, with fast-growing China receiving the bigger share
of U.S. attention this year.

Heading into the annual U.S.-China Joint Commission on
Commerce and Trade (JCCT) meeting, the Obama administration is
under pressure from Congress to show progress on trade
irritants ranging from beef to computer software.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan will head a delegation of
nearly 100 officials for talks led on the U.S. side by Commerce
Secretary Gary Locke and Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

A bipartisan group of U.S. members of the House of
Representatives on Friday complained that promises made by
China at past JCCT meetings “have failed to lead to
commercially meaningful market access for U.S. companies.”

They urged Locke and Kirk to press China to commit to
specific targets for measuring how much it is cutting piracy of
U.S. software and other intellectual property and boosting
imports of American goods. [ID:nN10100996]

The United States is also expected to press China to loosen
export restraints on rare earth minerals used in a variety of
clean energy and high-tech industry technologies.

U.S. concerns about China’s currency, which the United
States contends is significantly undervalued, are not formally
on the agenda but will be in the background of the talks.

Another major topic will be China’s “indigenous innovation”
policies that threaten to force U.S. companies to transfer
intellectual property to China to participate in that country’s
vast government procurement market.

A successful meeting would provide momentum for a summit
between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao
in mid-January, said John Frisbie, president of U.S.-China
Business Council.

“China says it prefers to resolve things through dialogue,
not legislation or sanctions. I think this is an opportunity to
show that,” Frisbie said.

STALE US-EU MARRIAGE

While the U.S.-China trade relationship is often fraught
with tension, relations between the United States and the 27
member nations of the EU may suffer from neglect.

“We treat this transatlantic relationship like a stale
marriage,” said Kathyrn Hauser, executive director of the
TransAtlantic Business Dialogue, a private sector group.

“But when push comes to shove, the innovation and the job
creation that affects Americans most significantly is because
of our relations with the Europeans,” she said.

This week’s TransAtlantic Economic Council (TEC) meeting
chaired by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and White House
Deputy National Security Adviser Michael Froman will explore
how to cut regulatory barriers that inhibit trade.

“If companies have to comply with two regulations, but the
protection they give consumers is the same, it’s a dead weight
loss,” an EU official said, speaking on condition of
anonymity.

Past efforts to make business regulations more compatible
in the United States and European Union have been difficult.
But both sides are embarking on new regulations in areas
ranging from clean energy to the Internet to financial services
that create opportunities for cooperation.

U.S. and EU officials are also expected to discuss
prospects for concluding the long-running Doha round of world
trade talks in 2011.

The EU is eager to reach a deal, but “there are doubts
about whether there is a real willingness to look at this on
the American side,” the EU official said.

The United States will discuss Doha with the Chinese on
Monday in a pre-JCCT meeting.

The Obama administration has pushed China, India and Brazil
to offer bigger market openings in agriculture, services and
manufacturing in exchange for cuts in farm subsidies and
manufacturing tariffs the United States is being asked to
make.

With the outlook for concluding the nine-year-old Doha
round in doubt, some experts believe the United States and the
European Union should negotiate a transatlantic free trade
agreement to reduce both tariff and regulatory barriers.

The EU official acknowledged the growing public discussion
of that, but said the idea is not part of the formal agenda for
this week’s TEC meeting.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Will Dunham)

US to hold pivotal trade talks with China, then EU