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China accord

March 20, 1984



IT is to the credit of both the United States and China that they are now working to strengthen economic ties. The current discussions also suggest that President Reagan's visit to Peking next month should go far toward ensuring stable political and diplomatic links between the two nations.

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The progress evident in the current round of economic discussions - involving talks in Peking this week between Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, and trade officials from both sides - clearly underscores that the bilateral US-China relationship is once again on track.

What needs to be kept in clear perspective is that the current degree of amity across the Pacific, at least as of now, represents the progress that has been made since the period of strain during the first two years of the Reagan presidency. Sharp differences appeared on both sides. Involved were a broad range of issues, including the President's vocal support for Taiwan, as well as US trade barriers to Chinese textiles.

But since last year the two countries have sought to define as many areas of compromise as possible. Moreover, the string of visits back and forth has been impressive. Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, for example, visited China. Premier Zhao visited Washington. President Reagan's trip next month will be the first visit to China by a US president since formal diplomatic ties were established some five years ago.

The two sides are now wrapping up a joint agreement regarding the taxation of US firms operating in China. The accord would in effect allow firms to escape double taxation. The two nations are also working to resolve differences about US farm sales to China. The current grain pact expires this year. The United States, which is facing stepped-up agricultural competition abroad from Common Market and Latin American nations, would obviously like a new multiyear pact. China, for its part, has suggested that it will consider making up shortfalls in US grain purchases that it was supposed to complete this past year - but did not because of indignation when the US unilaterally slapped import quotas on Chinese textiles. US Trade Representative William Brock will visit Peking in several weeks to resume discussions on US farm exports.

Many sharp differences remain between the two nations, including the issue of Taiwan. Yet, despite such differences, it is instructive that both the US and China now are seeking out ways of nailing down a firm and continuing joint relationship. Such stability is in the best long-range interest of both sides.