Trade talks between top Chinese and U.S. officials opened on a discordant note as fresh frictions surfaced over American auto exports. The start of the formal talks ran two hours late as discussions over specific issues dragged on, and officials addressing the opening session referred constantly to the need to speak with "candor" — in diplomat-speak a word often signaling differences of opinion.
This was probably prompted by an announcement that China plans to investigate dumping allegations against auto exports by the three big Detroit automakers.
If China concludes the car makers are getting government subsidies or are selling their products in China at below-market prices, China could raise tariffs on US auto imports.
It is difficult to know what the Chinese are complaining about in regard to the dumping of cars. Ford Motor, General Motors and Chrysler export only about 9,000 cars to China a year, though they manufacture millions more inside China in the joint ventures they are required to operate with local partners if they want to manufacture for the fast-growing market.
GM so far this year has sold 1.3 million cars and trucks in China, most of them built there in a joint venture with Chinese automaker SAIC.
The New York Times reports that through September, 9.66 million vehicles were sold in China, up 34% from the same period last year. During the same time, U.S. sales plunged 27% to 7.8 million units.