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U.S. cites rivals for unfair trade barriers

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Focusing on China, Japan and the European Union, the Bush administration on Wednesday accused 61 countries and groups of nations of significant trade barriers that harm U.S. manufacturers and farmers.

The government’s 672-page report on trade barriers is designed to guide U.S. negotiators over the next year in their efforts to attack barriers seen as doing the most damage to American companies.

If direct talks fail to produce results, the administration can bring cases before the World Trade Organization to deal with barriers that the United States believes violate WTO rules.

“Consultations, negotiations and litigation are among the tools at our disposal and we are using all of them aggressively to make sure that Americans are treated fairly,” acting U.S. Trade Representative Peter Allgeier said.

The report has been prepared annually for 20 years under legislation Congress first passed in 1974 to require the executive branch to give an accounting of which countries were erecting the most harmful barriers to U.S. exports.

As usual, the report devoted the most coverage — 58 pages — to China. The report provides details of areas where the administration contends the Chinese are not living up to the market-opening promises they made to join the WTO in late 2001.

The report said China was failing to enforce its laws against the theft of American movies, computer software and other intellectual property.

A fact sheet accompanying the report said “epidemic levels” of counterfeiting and piracy in China were causing “serious economic harm to U.S. businesses in virtually every sector of the economy.”

The United States, which had a record trade deficit of $617 billion last year, posted an imbalance of $162 billion with China. That was the largest deficit ever with a single country.

American manufacturers say China’s most harmful trade practice is Beijing’s policy of linking its currency directly to the dollar. This practice has undervalued the yuan by as much as 40 percent, giving Chinese companies a tremendous competitive advantage, according to U.S. businesses.

The report did not mention China’s currency at all. Trade officials said that was because the Treasury Department, not the trade office, handles currency matters.

Critics of the administration’s policies said the report showed the unwillingness of the government to pursue trade cases against China, including claims of currency manipulation.

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