Business: A cautious welcome to China's concessions
No one is calling it a breakthrough, but business groups welcomed -- guardedly -- the agreements announced between the United States and China on Wednesday that would open new technology and agriculture markets for U.S. products and would see the Chinese toughen enforcement of intellectual property and software piracy laws.
Major business organizations said the concessions offered by the Chinese seemed substantive and addressed some of their core concerns. But they also said they'll be just as eager to see the follow-through.
The promise by China for stricter intellectual property enforcement "is an important step toward making real progress in U.S.-China economic relations. We look forward to seeing positive results," said Peter M. Robinson, president of the New York-based United States Council for International Business.
Business Software Alliance head Robert Holleyman said in a written statement that the agreement seemed strong in principle but that its worth can only be judged "when software companies start seeing substantial increases in sales." The group estimates that U.S. companies lost upwards of $7.6 billion in software sales and license fees last year to Chinese piracy.
"We are pleased that there was movement on some of the key concerns," said U.S.-China Business Council President John Frisbie, while saying the group hopes more will be done before Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the United States early next year.
The announcement was made during a visit to Washington by Chinese officials. The agreements seemed broad, addressing some of the main
grievances from U.S. companies regarding their ability to sell wind turbines,
telecommunications equipment, medical machines and other goods. The Chinese also
agreed to reopen their market to U.S. beef.
What did China get? The U.S. market is already open to that nation, with a monthly $35 billion import tab as proof. But the Chinese have been concerned about challenges to their industrial policies that have been moving through the World Trade Organization, and also about a U.S. House vote this year on legislation to impose taxes on Chinese imports to offset what the administration and others say is its undervalued currency. The House passed the bill with overwhelming and bipartisan support. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.
As part of the visiting delegation, Chinese vice premier Wang Qishan met with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who handles deliberations over the currency dispute. Immediately after announcing the new agreements, Wang was off to Capitol Hill, where the currency legislation is pending. U.S. officials insist these issues are all considered separately, but there is little doubt that a jump in U.S. exports to China would lighten the mood among those who feel trade is benefiting one side more than the other.
| December 16, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
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