* China agreed to address U.S. concerns about piracy and
* U.S. pledged Chinese firms fair treatment in security
reviews of investment plans
* China complains about U.S. prejudice against state-owned
WASHINGTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - After a year of clashes on
trade and investment issues, senior U.S. and Chinese officials
touted progress on Wednesday on a number of commercial irritants
as a sign of the commitment both countries have to building a
China agreed to take further steps to address U.S. concerns
about widespread piracy and counterfeiting of American-made
goods by strengthening enforcement of intellectual property
rights and promoting the use of legal software by state-owned
banks and state-owned enterprises, Chinese Commerce Minister
Chen Deming told reporters after the meeting.
Such recycled pledges are a staple of the annual U.S.-China
Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), but U.S.
officials said it was important to keep up pressure on the issue
because of the big potential payoff for U.S. firms.
"Some of these issues may seem a bit esoteric, but they can
make the difference between millions, billions of dollars of new
exports and jobs being retained here at home," U.S. Trade
Representative Ron Kirk told reporters.
The past year has been a particularly bumpy one for the
U.S.-China trade relationship, with the United States initiating
a number of trade complaints against China at the World Trade
Organization and slapping duties on high-value Chinese exports
such as solar cells and wind turbine towers.
During the recent U.S. presidential campaign, both President
Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney also argued
about who would do a better job of standing up to Beijing and
fighting for U.S. jobs.
Chen said the United States made commitments in Wednesday's
meeting to promote exports of high-technology goods to China and
promised Chinese companies fair treatment when their plans to
invest in the United States are reviewed for national security
China has long pressed the United States to ease its
restrictions on exports of high-technology goods, and the Obama
administration is in the process of a comprehensive reform
effort that is expected to make it easier for many countries,
including China, to buy those items from American firms.
However, acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said that
would not apply to items on the U.S. munitions list because the
United States does not allow arms exports to China.
The JCCT is an annual forum launched in 1983 for the two
countries to address trade and investment concerns.
JOBS AND ECONOMIC GROWTH
Some recent high-profile Chinese investments in the United
States have been rejected on national security grounds, although
U.S. officials say most projects are welcomed with open arms as
a source of new jobs and economic growth.
The head of the Chinese delegation, Vice Premier Wang
Qishan, took a shot at U.S. suspicions of Chinese state-owned
enterprises that dominate China's economy and the important but
often unclear role of the ruling Communist Party in those firms.
"You can't deny the fact that some Americans lack
understanding of China and have stereotypes about China," he
said in remarks at a dinner of officials and business leaders of
the two countries on Wednesday night.
Wang said he asked U.S. counterparts, "Can you conduct a
security check without doing a political background check? Do
you normally ask Americans what party they belong to?"
Kirk estimated total Chinese investment in the United States
at about $9 billion, up "over 600 percent" in last three years.
The U.S. trade deficit with China hit a record $295 billion
in 2011 and is expected to set a new record this year when final
figures are announced in February.
Chen said China also pledged not to force U.S. companies to
transfer technology as a condition for doing business in China
and negotiate "as quickly as possible" to join the WTO's
agreement on government procurement.
However, both U.S. and Chinese officials said China and
other WTO members remained far apart on the definition of public
works projects that would be covered in any market-opening
China also agreed to delay a proposed regulation that could
impede U.S. auto exports until the United States has a fuller
opportunity to express its concerns, officials on both sides
U.S. Chamber of Commerce official Jamie Waterman said
agriculture was another key concern for this year's talks.
In agriculture, "the absence of product approvals for
roughly a year is a serious concern and has the potential to
create real challenges for China," he said.
With ongoing leadership transitions in Beijing and
Washington it was important that working-level officials hold up
"the JCCT as one of the pillars of stability in this
relationship," said Kirk.
"The true success of this plenary will be judged by those
who rely on the JCCT to deliver measurable results that help
stabilize and enhance our trade and investment relationships,"
Obama is expected to bring in a new economic team for his
second term, which begins in January.
Meanwhile, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping took over the
leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in November and will
become head of state at March at the annual parliament meeting.