Locke and Chu talk about economy and environment in China

By Joe McDonald and Henry Sanderson
The Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (left) and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu are in Beijing this week. Photo provided by Chinanews.com.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (left) and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu are in Beijing this week. Photo provided by Chinanews.com.

BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke urged China to help revive world growth by opening its markets further and easing currency controls.

“If China allowed for greater flexibility in its exchange rate and further opened up its domestic markets for imports and foreign direct investment, it would accelerate the world’s return to growth,” Locke said last Wednesday, July 15, in a speech to an audience of businesspeople.Locke warned that protectionism or barring foreign companies from Chinese contracts could be a “serious threat to trade cooperation.”

Locke is in Beijing with Energy Secretary Steven Chu to promote U.S.–Chinese collaboration in developing clean energy, an area that President Barack Obama sees as a potential source of economic growth and jobs.

Trade ties between the United States, the world’s biggest economy, and No. 3 China are regarded as key elements of a recovery from the deepest global economic slump since the 1930s.

Beijing’s currency controls, and complaints about import and investment barriers, are a chronic irritant in U.S.–Chinese trade relations.

China unsettled its trading partners when it announced in May that projects financed by its economic stimulus package are required to use domestically made goods whenever possible.

Speaking at a lunch organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the U.S.–China Business Council, Locke said the two sides still have disagreements but they are those of “mature partners.”

Locke appealed to Beijing to cooperate in promoting private-sector development of clean energy and to avoid imposing trade barriers on green technology.

“We need to empower U.S. and Chinese entrepreneurs and innovators to create and collaborate free from artificial trade barriers,” he said.

The U.S. and China — the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases — agree that climate change is a major concern. But Beijing says developed countries have not set themselves stringent enough to cut greenhouse gas production and it rejects demands on developing nations, including China, to set carbon emissions limits.

In a speech to students at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, Chu admitted that the United States and other developed nations were the first to emit such dangerous gases, but said the developing world was catching up fast.

If China continues on the same course without using more renewable resources, the “amount of carbon China emits in the next 30 years will equal all the carbon the U.S. has emitted in the life of the country,” he said. “We are all in this together so we have to fix it together.”

Most scientists agree that even a slight increase in average temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions will wreak havoc on farmers around the globe, as seasons shift, crops fail, and storms and droughts ravage fields.

The U.S. has set itself targets to cut emissions by 83 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels in a landmark climate and energy bill yet to be approved by the Senate. Developing countries refused to make similar mid-century commitments during climate change discussions on the sidelines of the G-8 meeting in Italy last week.

Beijing says developed countries have been emitting greenhouse gases for far longer than China and that they should be at the forefront of efforts to cut emissions rather than putting the onus on the developing world.

Chu urged developing countries to set themselves similar targets.

“Unless they also say, ‘We need to decrease our carbon emissions by mid-century,’ then the world will be in big trouble,” Chu said of the developing nations.

“What the U.S. and China do in the coming decades will in a large part determine the fate of the world,” he said.

Chu suggested the two countries should work together to develop clean energy and fuel-efficient technology.

“It is through collaboration between the United States and China in co-developing new science and technology that will lead to new solutions,” he said. ♦

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