Q&A: Locke says "win-win" possible in trade with China
In January, former Gov. Gary Locke went to Beijing to be a moderator during a high-level conference sponsored by the National Committee on United States-China Relations. Before he left, he discussed economic issues between the two economic giants, which have eroded recently amid the global recession.
Seattle Times business reporter
Trade between the U.S. and China is one of the most pressing issues Gary Locke would address as Commerce secretary. He has had a lot of practice.
In January, Locke went to Beijing to be a moderator during a high-level conference sponsored by the National Committee on United States-China Relations. Before he left, he discussed economic issues between the two economic giants, which have eroded recently amid the global recession.
Q: How will you address the trade imbalance, particularly the Chinese currency value and new tax rebates being given to Chinese exporters?
A: Friends of China have been critical of China and open about the need for Chinese to make some reforms, opening doors for U.S. goods and services and products. A lot of those policies are under review and being called before the WTO [World Trade Organization], so China needs to be very, very careful about that, given the fact that exports to the U.S. are down, given the economic climate in the U.S.
The Chinese are already realizing this and put more emphasis on domestic consumption. They need to encourage Chinese to buy products, which will create opportunities for American companies. American goods are still highly coveted in China — fashions, our culture, music and technology products, including medical equipment.
With the emphasis by the new administration, I think you'll see more rapid development, innovation and research of alternative energy. We have a lot we can share and sell to the Chinese, and this is a win-win opportunity for people on both sides of the Pacific.
Given Obama's emphasis on green energy, green jobs, alternative energy, environmental protection, I think this is a perfect opportunity for U.S. companies to sell their products and know-how into China. Clearly, this is an area the U.S. and China need to take the lead in work in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Q: What are the other top issues between the U.S. and China?
A: The economic situation is the number one here in the minds of Americans. What are the attitudes of the Chinese in continuing to purchase U.S. Treasurys? We just want to make sure. We've all known China is the largest holder of U.S. debt. If they were to cease purchasing, who would step up? Even if they were to cut back significantly, even 25 percent, that could have repercussions. Then inflation would rise significantly.
Other issues will be the fighting in the Sudan, and I'm sure the issues will be brought up [as to] what is the role of China as a world leader now in terms of exerting its influence to stop genocide in Africa. That's what the dialogue is all about, bringing frank discussion of the issues.
Q: How would you deal with the problem of Internet censorship in China?
A: It really requires cooperation and agreements among governments around the world on basic protocols and basic standards in the flow of information. Our definition of pornography is tougher than the definition in Europe. Things we absolutely do not allow are legal in Europe. Things that are illegal in Europe are legal in the United States. Things legal all over the world are illegal in the Middle East.
It puts international companies in an untenable position responding to different standards by each separate government. What we really need to be pursuing is having China and the U.S. participate in creating those standards.
Q: Sounds like you're auditioning for another position in the Obama administration?
A: No, I was invited to moderate a panel of such impressive high-level government officials on the future development of bilateral ties. It's a treat for me. ... We've got so many tough issues facing our country. Democrats, Republicans, independents have to support the new administration as it tackles these tough issues.
Q: What's your primary role at Davis Wright Tremaine?
A: I'm helping U.S. companies sell their products in Asia. I've been to China five times in the last year on behalf of U.S. companies.
Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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