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US officials press China for results in trade talks

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration pushed for concrete results in high-level trade talks with China that began yesterday, but the head of the Chinese delegation bluntly warned against confrontation.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said it was important that the two days of talks produce results to build trust between the countries. He said Americans were by nature impatient people, and he said the two sides should work to build a "road map to the future."

The administration is anxious for success stories to show an increasingly restive Congress, where lawmakers blame America's soaring trade deficits and the loss of one in six manufacturing jobs since 2000 in part on China's trade practices in such areas as currency manipulation and copyright piracy.

The U S delegation also raised the issue of food safety highlighted by such incidents as the deaths of animals that had eaten pet food made with tainted wheat gluten imported from China.

U S Trade Representative Susan Schwab, who briefed reporters on the discussions, said food safety was raised over breakfast by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.

"They know this is an issue that concerns us and concerns the American people," said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, at the end of the first day of talks, said Johanns had made a forceful presentation to the Chinese about the concerns Americans have about food safety. In response, she said, Chinese officials sought to assure the Americans that they would investigate any problems.

In opening remarks, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi cautioned the United States against pursuing a blame game.

"We should not easily blame the other side for our own domestic problems," Wu said, speaking through an interpreter. "Confrontation does no good at all to problem-solving."

Wu, who gained a reputation for tough speaking when she was China's top trade negotiator, said that both sides should "firmly oppose trade protectionism." She said that any effort to "politicize" the economic relationship between the two nations would be "absolutely unacceptable."

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