Wednesday, December 26, 2012

US Trade Rep rebukes China for cheating, hopes for better behavior. Really.

(UPDATES to ADD grafs 16-19 to show USTR's optimism)

The United States is excoriating China for breaking trade rules in a recent report that went unnoticed by every mainstream journalist save for The Telegraph's Ambrose Evans Pritchard.

In today's column, "US lambasts China for breaches of trade rules," Pritchard tells us,
Washington has issued a blistering attack on China for persistent breaches of world trade rules and abuse of industrial secrets, accusing Beijing of failing to abide by treaty obligations.
The gist of the report, submitted by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, is that China retaliates against countries that use the World Trade Organization to enforce trading rules. Writes Pritchard,
The report accused Chinese officials of running rough-shod over foreign firms, forcing them to give up trade secrets in clear violation of WTO rules... 
The US has filed fifteen cases against China at the WTO, the most recent alleging unfair duties on US vehicles and car parts. Washington won a panel dispute over steel duties in September. China in turn has a clutch of cases claiming illegal use of anti-dumping measures by the US... 
It targeted a wide range of alleged abuses, including subsidies, attempts to keep out foreign imports and companies, and failure to enforce intellectual property rights. 
Washington said restraints on exports of rare earth metals, tungsten, molybdenum, and other raw materials, as well as manipulation of export rebates, were leading to "tremendous disruption" worldwide.
We took a look at the report itself. Written in dense bureaucratese, it does talk tough on trade. For example, the report notes,
  • ...counterfeiting and piracy remain at unacceptably high levels and continue to cause serious harm to U.S. businesses across many sectors of the economy.  Indeed, in a study released in May 2011, the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated that U.S. businesses suffered a total of $48 billion in lost sales, royalties and license fees due to IPR infringement in China in 2009 – a figure that is more than two-thirds the value of the $69 billion in U.S. goods exported to China in the same year.
  • ...China continued to deploy export quotas, export license restrictions, minimum export prices, export duties and other export restraints on a number of raw material inputs in which it holds the leverage of being  among  the world’s leading producers.  Through these export restraints, it appears that China is able to provide substantial economic advantages to a wide range of downstream producers in China at the expense of foreign downstream producers, while creating incentives for foreign downstream producers to move their operations, technologies and jobs to China.
  • ...the United States continues to press China to take concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitment to accede to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement and to open up its vast government procurement market to the United States and other GPA parties
(You can read the whole thing here.)

It would be comforting to know the USTR isn't asleep at the switch -- except we found howlers like these in the report:
The impressive growth in U.S.-China trade has provided substantial opportunities for U.S. businesses, workers, farmers, ranchers and service suppliers, as well as a wealth of affordable goods for U.S. consumers.
Aaargh! And there's this:
The United States recognizes the tremendous upside promised by the U.S.-China trade relationship for both the United States and China,  and it thereforehas continued to urge China to reinvigorate  the economic reform that drove its accession to the WTO. 
And this:
...there were some positive signs in 2012 that China may be  focused on re-energizing  its economic reforms... 
You'd think maybe a mention or two of our trade deficit, loss of manufacturing and unemployment would temper the USTR's enthusiasm for trade with China. But no. So we turn to Face the Facts USA, which reminds us,
Our trade deficit with China was $295 billion in 2011. That’s nearly triple what it was 10 years ago – and represents about 40 percent of the entire U.S. trade deficit. No other country even comes close.
And to our friends at the Economic Policy Institute, who remind us the
...growing U.S. trade deficit with China cost more than 2.7 million jobs between 2001 and 2011, with job losses in every state.