By Kevin Bogardus - 06/02/09 06:00 PM EDT
In a speech before the U.S.-China Business Council, Kirk emphasized that the Obama administration wants to work with China to solve any trade problems that come up through diplomacy and negotiations.
At the same time, he said, the U.S. will use the stick of litigation at the World Trade Organization if China fails to follow international rules. He said the seven challenges the Bush administration brought against China are evidence of this.
“Our approach to China will involve both direct diplomacy and strong enforcement of America’s rights through the global rules-based trading system,” Kirk said.
Administration officials have taken pains to assure China that Obama wants a positive economic relationship with the growing power. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited Beijing this week, and avoided trade irritants while emphasizing ways China and the U.S. could work together to lead the world out of a global recession.
On that note, Kirk in his speech said job creation in the United States could boom if China further opens its market to U.S. goods and services. He said a silver lining to the economic crisis is that China has acknowledged it needs to be less export-dependent, which could provide new opportunities to U.S. exporters.
Kirk said his office is already making plans for this fall’s meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, where Kirk and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will meet with Chinese officials. Obama is expected to make his first official visit to China later this fall.
Kirk said the meeting must make meaningful progress on fundamental trade concerns that spring from different economic approaches in the U.S. and China.
Obama sometimes sounded a tougher line on China during last year’s presidential campaign, and some critics who think the U.S. should do more to curb Chinese imports have expressed some disappointment. They feel the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, has put broader foreign policy and economic goals ahead of trade concerns.
“In some cases, China’s industrial and procurement policies, as well as standards and licensing procedures, favor domestic and state-owned enterprises and discriminate against U.S. and other foreign firms,” he said. “We intend to deepen our dialogue and seek solutions on these important issues where we differ.”