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U.S. urges China to implement planned economic reforms

A Chinese man adjusts a China flag before a news conference attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and U.S. Secretary of State Hil
A Chinese man adjusts a China flag before a news conference attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and U.S. Secretary of State Hil

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States urged China on Tuesday to quickly implement planned reforms to open up its economy and said it will keep a close eye on progress as officials work to resolve remaining trade tensions with the world's second-largest economy.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) also said the United States would not hesitate to lodge new disputes with the World Trade Organization if bilateral talks on a range of contentious issues from agriculture to intellectual property failed.

China, a $450 billion market for U.S. goods and services that has become a key source of revenue for some American companies, announced plans last month to steer its economy towards more sustainable growth and liberalize markets.

The USTR said the reforms, which aim to boost productivity and switch the focus of China's economic model from goods exports to domestic consumption and services, had much in common with the U.S. trade agenda with China.

"The United States shares (the reforms') goals of reducing Chinese government intervention in the economy, accelerating China's opening up to foreign goods and services, reforming China's state-owned enterprises and improving transparency and the rule of law to allow fair competition in China's market," the USTR said in a report to U.S. lawmakers.

"The United States therefore will urge China to speedily implement these promising Third Plenum Decision economic reform elements."

In its latest scorecard of China's compliance with its WTO obligations, the USTR expressed particular concern at intellectual property infringements, including copyright violations and piracy which it said cost U.S. companies billions of dollars every year in lost royalties and revenue.

The U.S. is also concerned about the theft of trade secrets by or for the benefit of Chinese companies, and lax enforcement of existing legal protections which means many victims of such thefts do not lodge formal complaints.

"When bilateral discussions fail to resolve key issues, the United States will remain prepared to take other types of action on these issues, including WTO dispute settlement where appropriate," said the USTR, which reported seven active WTO cases against China during 2013.

Other key unresolved issues highlighted in the report include Chinese export restraints on rare earths and other raw materials and a ban on U.S. beef imports, which both countries have said they aim to lift by July 2014.

China, which joined the WTO 12 years ago, is the United States' largest agricultural export market with exports of more than $25 billion in 2013 but the USTR said the country remained "among the least transparent and predictable of the world's major markets for agricultural products."

The USTR's wish list for China includes reducing market access barriers, more transparency, less discrimination, requiring state-owned enterprises to compete with other enterprises on a level playing field and a stronger legal system.

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