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US trade gap with China falls 22.7%

A big buying spree in February yielded the unexpected drop

WASHINGTON -- The Chinese are engaged in a multibillion-dollar buying spree of all things American, from soybeans to Boeing jetliners, and the huge US trade deficit with China dropped unexpectedly in February.

But the Bush administration said yesterday more trade concessions will be needed when President Hu Jintao visits Washington next week to quiet growing unrest in this country over a US trade deficit with China that hit $202 billion last year. That deficit, the highest ever for the United States with a single country, has led to demands in Congress for punitive tariffs against all Chinese products if Beijing does not do more to halt what critics see as the country's unfair trading practices.

The complaints include accusations that China has not done enough to deal with rampant piracy of copyright products. This practice robs American computer software companies and music and movie businesses of billions of dollars in annual sales.

American manufacturers also are upset because they believe China is unfairly depressing the value of its currency against the dollar by up to 40 percent. Thus, Chinese goods bought by American consumers are significantly cheaper in the United States while American products are more expensive in China.

The White House got some good news on America's deficit with China with a report yesterday showing the trade gap declined by a bigger-than-expected 22.7 percent in February, falling to $13.8 billion, the smallest imbalance with China since March 2005. The China trade deficit represented more than one-fourth of last year's record $723.6 billion US deficit with all countries.

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