Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji announced new U.S.-China trade concessions on agriculture and generally charmed a luncheon audience of business, political and community leaders from Los Angeles and Orange counties on Tuesday.
The 70-year-old economic leader in China's government said his country will eliminate restrictions against imports of citrus fruit from California and three other states and of wheat from seven U.S. states.
The concessions "are important for China to gain access to the World Trade Organization," Zhu said, pressing a principal aim of his nine-day U.S. visit, which began Tuesday at a luncheon hosted by Mayor Richard Riordan and his wife, Nancy Daly Riordan.
Encouraged by progress on agricultural questions, the U.S. trade representative's office and Chinese government officials continued negotiations in Washington on Tuesday night. They were trying to achieve agreements on trade in telecommunications and services, the last two hurdles to U.S. approval of China's accession to the WTO. Membership in the global trade body would help China attract foreign investment and gain export markets. Foreign investment in China's economy is down sharply this year and economic growth is slowing.
Zhu's visit, which will take him to Washington today, is also aimed at defusing tensions that have arisen over China's trade relations, human rights record and military posture.
Zhu said he was already facing questions on those matters: Riordan asked him about Los Angeles'--and the nation's--trade deficit with China, and Gov. Gray Davis questioned him about human rights. Coping with such questions had caused him to keep the 400 luncheon guests waiting, he joked.
Some of the businesses represented at the Century City luncheon--from Pasadena-based Avery Dennison, which produces labels in a plant west of Shanghai, to Sun Microsystems, which is helping the Peoples Daily and other newspapers go online--said their companies' China operations are faring well.
Others, such as Hughes Electronics, hope Zhu's visit will improve U.S. relations. Hughes and other technology companies have seen their China business dry up because of U.S. government restrictions on selling high-tech goods to China.
An executive of a U.S. firm in heavy industry, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained that the enthusiasm of global companies for investment in China has cooled because Chinese government policies have not always been clear nor have promises always been kept.