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China Trade Minister Heads to U.S.

December 15, 1998

BEIJING (AP) _ China today sent its trade minister and a 24-member delegation to talks in the United States, glossing over U.S. anger over a soaring trade deficit.

Shi Guangsheng, who heads the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, and Commerce Secretary William Daley will meet Thursday in Washington.

For months, U.S. officials have criticized China for running up trade surpluses and keeping its markets closed. On the eve of Shi’s departure, an aide to Daley warned that China’s projected $60 billion trade surplus with the United States was becoming a big political issue in Washington.

Undersecretary of Commerce David Aaron told a think-tank in Washington on Monday: ``It may well be that trade is the most disturbing factor in the relationship.″

China’s official Xinhua News Agency quoted Shi as saying he hoped his U.S. trip would reduce disagreements. In keeping with that tone, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman played down previous criticism of new U.S. rules on wood packaging materials from China as a form of protectionism.

Washington insists the rules are intended to prevent infestation by the Asian long-horned beetle, which burrows into the wood crates.

The United States, which is China’s biggest export market, has accused Beijing of tightening its already closed markets and insisted on greater access before allowing China into the World Trade Organization.

During a trip to Beijing in September, Aaron said China was erecting new barriers to trade and investment in power plants, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals.

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