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China says US, Europe contradict free trade ideals

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, March 5 (Reuters) Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said on Sunday that anti-dumping duties by the European Union and U.S.

threats of more trade complaints contradict the spirit of free trade and add to global protectionism.

''The actions of the U.S. and Europe are actually quite contradictory,'' Bo told reporters on the sidelines of a parliamentary provincial meeting.

''We are a responsible member of WTO, and will negotiate according to the rules and regulations of the WTO.'' Bo's comments come just days after a U.S. official said China can expect more World Trade Organisation (WTO) complaints, and the Europeans imposed duties on Chinese leather shoe exports, the latest disputes to strain trade ties.

Bo did not mention any counter-measures that China might take, saying only that rising protectionism was a great concern.

''We are paying very close attention to protectionism,'' he said.

To help ease rising trade tensions, Bo said China was encouraging exporters to produce higher value-added products and not pursue mass exports of cheap goods.

President Hu Jintao is expected to visit the United States in April where trade disputes are sure to be on the agenda.

''The U.S. and Europe have benefited from free trade for a long time, but now the situation has changed,'' said Bo.

''Now, some of their industries are facing challenges from developing countries ... and they would rather have slower growth and protectionism than embrace free trade.

''It is challenging their strategic thinking on how to develop economically.'' Bo said it was best for all parties to resolve the trade disputes as soon as possible through negotiation.

China reported a record trade surplus with the United States in 2005 of 4.2 billion, still much smaller than the 5.3 billion surplus the United States says the mainland enjoys.

The discrepancy is because the United States counts exports from Hong Kong as originating from China.

(US$=8.04 yuan) REUTERS SY VC1655

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