China Cited by U.S. for Trade Barriers on Autos, Steel, Beef

China continues to restrict U.S. producers of autos, steel and beef from gaining access to its markets, and its protection of intellectual-property rights remains inadequate, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said.

While the Asian nation has made progress opening its markets to foreign competition, “some serious problems remain, such as China’s refusal to grant trading rights for certain industries,” according to the agency’s annual report to Congress on trade barriers, released today. The USTR also released two other reports covering health and regulatory trade barriers in China and other countries.

“These reports identify the barriers as well as the initiatives that USTR is undertaking to secure market access for made-in-America goods and services across the globe,” acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said on a conference call with reporters.

President Barack Obama’s administration is seeking to bolster enforcement of commerce rules as it pursues two trade deals, one with 10 other Pacific-region nations and another with the 27-nation European Union. Last year the White House created a unit led by USTR and Commerce Department officials to better police trade laws.

Policies Examined

China, the world’s second-largest economy, after the U.S., received the most-lengthy mention in the 406-page “National Trade Estimate” report, which examined policies in 57 major trading partners, the 27-nation European Union, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the 22-member Arab League.

Since the beginning of 2012, the U.S. has filed complaints against China at the Geneva-based World Trade Organization over goods including autos and rare-earth elements. Trade tensions have risen between the two nations over government support for clean-energy programs. The U.S. trade deficit with China last year reached a record $315 billion, according to the Census Bureau.

The USTR cited Chinese policies that favor domestic fertilizer producers and set high thresholds for U.S. bank and insurance companies to enter its markets as examples of trade barriers. It also said China has “persistent inadequacies” in protecting intellectual property rights on goods such as books and software.

‘Buy National’

The report examined a variety of trade barriers, including tariffs, export subsidies, “buy-national” policies, bribery and corruption.

“In recent years, the United States has observed a growing trend among our trading partners to impose localization barriers” that favor domestic industries at the expense of foreign competitors, the USTR said in the report. Preferential policies for Brazil’s auto sector and Nigeria’s oil and gas sector were cited as examples.

The USTR said U.S. negotiators in 2012 were able to remove barriers to American beef in Japan, kept open China’s $1.3 billion market for fish and eased U.S. telecommunications exports to Israel, among other achievements.

Representatives Sander Levin of Michigan and Charles Rangel of New York on March 28 asked the administration to curb China’s alleged cyber theft of trade secrets from U.S. companies.

The lawmakers, senior Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, want the USTR to designate China as a top violator of intellectual property rights, which could lead to further trade restrictions. A USTR report on trade and intellectual property is scheduled to be released around April 30.

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