China escalates trade dispute with selective U.S. ban Decision on certain items is in response to U.S. cut of import quotas of textiles


SHANGHAI, China -- China announced a ban on the importing of selected goods from the United States yesterday, stepping up a trade dispute with the Clinton administration and sending a blunt signal that it will not easily succumb to pressure.

With Secretary of State Warren Christopher set to visit China in less than two weeks, the promise to further restrict China's market from American exporters seemed timed to draw maximum attention.

Although Christopher plans to leave office soon, his successor appears likely to face a growing number of trade disputes with China.

U.S. textiles, farm goods and alcoholic drinks will be affected by the ban, effective Dec. 10, according to an announcement by China's Foreign Trade Ministry and customs office.

A specific list of the affected items will be drawn up by then, said the trade authorities, who did not estimate how much trade would be affected or say how long the ban would last.

"The decision was made in response to the U.S. unilateral cut of import quotas of Chinese textiles," said the announcement, carried by the New China News Agency, referring to a move by Washington in September.

Washington and Beijing have battled for years over how to count Chinese textile exports to the United States, but the problem has grown stickier in recent months as China has emerged as the country with the biggest trading surplus in American markets, expected to exceed $30 billion by the end of the year.

On Sept. 6, Washington levied a $19 million penalty on China, saying Beijing had tried to evade textile quotas by transshipping goods through third countries, where garments are sometimes labeled to disguise their origin. U.S. officials said they had detected repeated violations of a 1994 U.S.-China trade accord.

Yesterday, Chinese trade officials accused Washington of acting before it had fully consulted them and of acting without clear evidence, itself a violation of the bilateral textile agreement.

Beijing and Washington narrowly avoided a trade war in June, when a dispute over how to enforce copyright protection of American music, computer software and movies threatened to provoke sanctions in each direction that would have totaled $2 billion.

The dispute over textiles looks minor and symbolic in comparison, with China expected to target American imports worth about the same as the $19 million worth of goods excluded by Washington.

Yet a U.S. official said there was a danger that China's reaction would provoke retaliation from Washington.

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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