Page last updated at 21:31 GMT, Tuesday, 14 February 2006

US toughens stance on China trade

Worker in a shoe factory examines his products
China's cheap exports have put its trade policies under scrutiny

The US has said it will focus more closely on China's trade policies, and has set up a task force to ensure it complies with global requirements.

Trade representative Rob Portman said that the US was readjusting its view towards the Asian economic powerhouse.

China is a mature trading partner and has to enforce intellectual property rights and open its markets, he said.

Trade tensions have increased, with the US complaining that its domestic market is being flooded with cheap imports.

'Respect to China'

US companies have been putting pressure on the White House to better protect domestic producers and get them greater access to foreign and fast-growing markets.

At the heart of the concerns is the US's ballooning trade deficit.

Despite an increase in exports, the US trade deficit was a record $725.8bn in 2005.

The shortfall with China totalled $201.6bn and the US has long accused Beijing of keeping its currency artificially weak in order to boost exports.

Critics also have argued that China does little to help nurture competition and grant access to its domestic market.

"The time has come to readjust our trade policy with respect to China," said Mr Portman, as he unveiled a six-month review of the trade relationship between the US and China.

'All options'

"As a mature trading partner, China should be held accountable for its actions and required to live up to its responsibilities, including opening markets and enforcing intellectual property rights," he said.

Mr Portman vowed to "use all options available", including turning to the World Trade Organisation should the two sides fail to resolve a number of ongoing issues.

The task force will be run by a newly set up counsel position from within the trade representative office.

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