Brown to China: Can We Talk? `No Big Deal,' Says China Official

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U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown said Sunday that he hoped talks with China would resume soon to avert a trade war over copyrights, patents and trademarks over various goods.

"We never stop wanting to engage the Chinese and others with whom we are having disputes, and I would hope that there could be a re-engagement so that this problem could be overcome," Brown told reporters in Jerusalem in response to a question. Brown is on a trade mission to the Middle East.

On Saturday, the United States announced that it would impose 100 percent import tariffs on $1.08 billion of Chinese goods on Feb. 26 if the dispute were not resolved. China retaliated with its own promised countermeasures.

The United States has accused China of rampant piracy of copyrights, patents and trademarks on everything from cereals to computer software at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to American firms each year. Nearly 20 months of negotiations have not resolved the dispute.

The most recent talks - in Beijing - ended a week ago without progress, and an invitation to Chinese officials to come to Washington for last-ditch negotiations went unanswered.

If the two nations do put their sanctions into effect, China stands to lose a slice of its biggest export market, as well as a share of confidence and foreign investment. The United States is China's single largest export market.

And yet, Chinese Foreign Trade Minister Wu Yi on Sunday called the U.S. sanctions "no big deal," because China's markets are diversified, he explained.

China contends that it has made huge progress in enforcing new copyright protection laws, but the delay in the sanctions until Feb. 26 leaves time for more talks. Chinese trade officials would not say Sunday whether they would accept a U.S. invitation to negotiate further. Impact Limited

The U.S. sanctions would affect only a small fraction of China-U.S. trade, which in 1994 was about $45 billion. In fact, the sanctions would affect less than 1 percent - or less than $1 billion - of the estimated $124 billion of China's total exports last year.

The sanctions, on such Chinese-made items as plastic products, cellular phones, answering machines, sporting goods and bicycles, are intended to roughly equal the amount that U.S. firms say they lose from Chinese piracy.

Some Chinese manufacturers and U. …