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China lashes out at US technology restrictions
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 28, 2013

China, Japan, S. Korea conclude first round trade talks
Seoul (AFP) March 28, 2013 - China, Japan and South Korea concluded a first round of talks Thursday on securing a free trade pact to bind three economies that account for 20 percent of global gross domestic product.

The three days of talks in Seoul that began Tuesday were largely procedural, setting the agenda and scope of future negotiations when substantive trade issues will be discussed.

South Korean Deputy Trade Minister Choi Kyong-Lim said the first round had laid a crucial foundation.

"I believe we were successful in establishing trust between negotiators from the three countries, which may play the most important role as negotiations move forward," Choi told reporters.

With all three countries under new leadership, trade officials hope they can move beyond damaging territorial disputes that have dogged their relations for decades.

The idea of a trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) has been discussed for decades, but diplomats say China is now pushing especially hard for a pact, in part as a counter to US initiatives in Asia.

Washington is leading negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact that some see as part of the so-called US "pivot" -- aimed at reaffirming the US role in Asia in the face of China's economic rise.

The TPP talks currently involve Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

While China is conspicuously absent, new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced earlier this month Japan's decision to participate in the TPP negotiations.

The second round of the trilateral FTA talks will be held in China in June or July, followed by a third round in Japan later in the year.

"Usually, it takes around one to three years at the least to conclude FTA talks with a large trading partner," Choi said.

"But I think the ongoing talks may take some more time, considering the importance and size of the involved countries and the fact that they are three-way negotiations," he added.

China, Japan and South Korea are now Asia's largest, second-largest and fourth-largest economies, while trade volume between them amounted to $690 billion in 2011.

Among other issues, the discussions are expected to hit opposition from Japanese and South Korean farmers worried about an inflow of cheaper agricultural products such as Chinese rice.

But the main hurdle lies in the form of bitter, long-standing territorial disputes that have raised diplomatic and military tensions and hampered economic cooperation.

China and Japan are arguing about sovereignty over an archipelago in the East China Sea, while Japan and South Korea have a historic dispute over ownership of islands in waters between the two countries.

Beijing branded a new US spending bill barring government purchases of Chinese-made technology "biased" on Thursday, after the two powers clashed over accusations of cyber-hacking.

The bill, signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama, blocked government buying of information technology equipment "produced, manufactured or assembled" by firms "owned, directed or subsidised by the People's Republic of China".

Federal government agencies could buy IT products from China if they passed an official assessment of risks involving "cyber-espionage or sabotage associated with the acquisition of such system", the bill said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei hit out at the measure at a regular press briefing, saying it "adopts a biased attitude towards Chinese enterprises under the pretext of information security".

The bill "is not conducive to the development of China-US relations," he added.

The US ban follows a war of words between the world's two largest economies over cyber-attacks, after a US research company said last month that a Chinese army unit had stolen "hundreds of terabytes" of data, from mostly US companies.

China dismissed the report as "groundless" and said its defence ministry websites were often subject to hacking attacks originating in the US.

China is the US' largest trading partner in "advanced technology products" selling it $117 billion-worth in 2010 alone, according to the Virginia-based National Science Foundation.

The bill could hurt Chinese exporters of IT equipment such as Lenovo, which sees sales to US government agencies as a major part of its North American growth strategy, reports said.

Quarter of US firms in China face data theft: lobby
Beijing (AFP) March 29, 2013 - Over a quarter of the members of a US business lobby in China have experienced data theft, the group said on Friday, after the two powers engaged in a war of words over state-sponsored hacking attacks.

An American Chamber of Commerce in China survey of its members found 26 percent of respondents said "proprietary data or trade secrets have been breached or stolen from their China operations".

Data theft "poses a substantial obstacle for businesses in China", the Chamber said in a report.

Most businesses said the threat of data theft was "rising or staying the same", threatening the development of cloud computing, an emerging technology which has received a major push from the Chinese government, the report said.

Beijing's foreign ministry, which has repeatedly denied that China engages in hacking, dismissed the report, with spokesman Hong Lei saying: "We oppose the presumption of guilt, without thorough investigation and solid evidence."

He called on the US to stop "politicising the trade issue, and hyping cybersecurity issues".

The report follows a war of words between the world's two largest economies over cyber-attacks, after a US research company said last month that a Chinese army unit had stolen "hundreds of terabytes" of data, from mostly US firms.

China dismissed the report as "groundless" and said its defence ministry websites were often subject to regular hacking attacks originating in the US.

It also labelled as "biased" a US bill blocking government purchases of information technology equipment "produced, manufactured or assembled" by firms "owned, directed or subsidised by the People's Republic of China".


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