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China trade pact reached

The United States has reached a tentative agreement with China to resolve a trade dispute and avoid punitive tariffs, the Bush administration said Friday.

U.S. negotiators refused to provide details of the accord but said that the Chinese had agreed to significant moves to open their huge market to American goods and that the pact would remove the threat of U.S. sanctions.

"We have reached an agreement in principle," said Chris Allen, a spokesman for U.S. trade representative Carla Hills.

He said the agreement still had to be cleared by the Chinese government and details would not be released until then.

The United States had been pressing China to remove a variety of barriers that make it difficult for American companies to do business there. American negotiators have charged that China has unclear and hidden trade regulations, outright bans on certain imports and quotas limiting imports of other products.

Negotiators had faced a midnight deadline tonight for resolving the dispute. Hills said in August that, if the dispute was not resolved by then, the United States was prepared to impose tariffs of up to 100 percent on $3.9-billion worth of Chinese products, effectively doubling their U.S. prices.

China had countered by issuing a list of $4-billion in American products that it said would be hit with retaliatory tariffs. The list included U.S. aircraft, computers, automobiles, medical equipment, pesticides, timber and wood products.

The U.S. trade deficit with China totaled $12.7-billion last year, second only to Japan.

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