BEIJING - China and the United States signed agreements yesterday to increase safeguards over Chinese products and to open mid-size Chinese cities to U.S. imports, a move aimed at assuaging critics of Beijing's massive trade surplus.
The agreements came on the first day of trade talks that Washington hopes will yield progress on increasing U.S. exports to China. The U.S. trade deficit with China will likely surpass last year's record $233 billion, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures, amplifying calls in Congress for punishing legislation responding to what some call unfair Chinese trade practices.
Coinciding with talks, China announced that its global trade surplus totaled $26.28 billion in November, showing demand for low-cost Chinese goods has not waned despite recalls and warnings over faulty or tainted products.
During the first 11 months of the year, China's global trade surplus totaled $238.9 billion, 53 percent greater than the same period a year ago, the Chinese government said.
China's exports have come under scrutiny this year after a number of potentially deadly chemicals have been found in goods including toothpaste, toys and seafood.
In March, tainted pet food made in China was blamed for the deaths of cats and dogs in North America. Last month, regulators found the coating on beads in a popular toy sold globally, and manufactured in China, metabolized into the "date-rape" drug gamma hydroxy butyrate when ingested.
U.S. Health Secretary Mike Leavitt said two agreements - one on food and animal feed, the other on drugs and medical devices - would "enhance the safety of scores of household items the American people consume on a daily basis."
A Health Department statement said the agreements would increase information exchanges and require registration for exporters.
Also, China's inflation surged to its highest rate in 11 years last month, the government said yesterday, adding to pressure for the central bank to raise interest rates and loosen currency controls. Rising food and oil prices lifted November's consumer price index 6.9 percent from the same period last year, the National Bureau of Statistics said.