WASHINGTON -- Largely unnoticed amid a flurry of trade-related agreements last week between the United States and China was an accord tightening export-control procedures on U.S. dual-use technologies shipped to China.
U.S. officials said the "end-use visit understanding," which involves verifying that exported equipment is used solely by the intended Chinese company for a specific purpose, could boost U.S. technology exports to China. But experts said Wednesday (April 28) it's unclear whether the deal will boost U.S. exports at a time when America is running a huge trade deficit with China.
The Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced the deal with Beijing following bilateral trade talks here last week. The talks also concluded accords covering intellectual property protections and a controversial proposed Chinese wireless encryption standard.
The export deal creates "procedures to strengthen end-use visit cooperation and help ensure that U.S. exports of controlled dual-use items are being used by their intended recipients for their intended purposes," BIS said in a statement. "This new end-use visit understanding specifies procedures for conducting end-use visits, while also providing a mechanism for consultations on other end-use visit issues that may arise."
So far, the text of the agreement has not been released by the Bush administration.
The deal had been in the works for more than two years, but Beijing had been back-sliding on certain provisions prior to last week's meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. Sources said Beijing had been unilaterally reinterpreting the understanding to include only computers. Washington wanted it to include a range of products.
Experts said the agreement likely includes dual-used items besides computers.
William Reinsch, a former export control official in the Clinton administration who handled the early stages of the negotiations with Beijing, said the deal likely fleshed out procedures for requesting visits to Chinese companies before issuing export licenses to U.S. companies. It may have also specific a time period during which Beijing must respond to an inspection request.
In the past, experts said, the Chinese government often ignored requests for inspection visits related to pending export licenses.
Whether the agreement boosts U.S. high-tech exports to China remains unclear, Reinsch said. "At the margin that may be true," he said. "It does not imply a general lowering of [U.S. export control] standards."
The deal is not believed to cover more controversial dual-use exports such as lithography equipment. Lithography and other chip-making gear are handled under the 33-member Wassenaar Arrangement.