Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps predicted yesterday that total trade with China will almost double this year, topping $700 million. She also pledged to the National Council for U.S. China Trade that export license applications will be handled as efficiently and as swiftly as possible.
The Kreps forecast an upward revision from earlier predictions of about $500 million, reflects China's purchase last April of a million metric tons of U.S. wheat. The wheat, worth $115 million, was China's first purchase of American grain since 1974. Commerce Department sources said China also is expected to purchase about 2 million more tons of wheat on the world market later this year.
Sino-American trade reached its peak of $934 million in 1974, largely the result of China's purchase of 3.2 million tons of U.S. grain worth $351 million. In 1978, exports are expected to total $450 million, compared with $171.5 million last year. Imports of Chinese products are expected to increase more than 20 percent to about $250 million.
The Kreps pledge to expedite export applications of sensitive equipment came on the heels of last week's approval for the sale $2.6 million worth of scanning equipment to China. The application for this equipment, which can be used for military purposes, orignally was turned down. The decision was reversed at the highest level after national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski urged approval upon his return from Peking.
The reversal, Kreps told American exporters yesterday, "reflects our desire to review carefully applications for exports to all countries, with a view to expanding trade, where possible, consistent with our national security interests."
The secretary also volunteered what amounted to a 'no comment" on a Untied Press International report that circulated Tuesday, indicating the administration's desire to speed up normalization of diplomatic relations with China and specifying the conditions for doing so. The lack of recognition and most favored nation status have long been cited as barriers to increased Sino-American trade.
"I am not prepared to confirm or deny the accuracy of the UPI story. It would be clearly inappropriate to discuss the current status of our review of this issue . . . The administration has made no decisions on timing nor could it, because this a mutual process. Normalization remains an important goal," Kreps asserted.
UPI said that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Defense Secretary Harold Brown and other top officials told members of the Trilateral Commission that the administration decided to speed up negotiations and to ask for specific concessions on the Taiwan question.
The three conditions reported by the news service from talks with participants of the influential private study group were a continuance of U.S. trade and aid to Taiwan after full diplomatic relations are established with Peking, establishment of a U.S. trade office in Taiwan, and a pledge from China not to use force to reunite Taiwan with the mainland. Peking previously rejected U.S. efforts to maintain diplomatic or military contacts with Taiwan.
In a related development, a Taiwan trade mission yesterday bought 226,000 metric tons of U.S. wheat and barley, worth $8 million. The group intends to make two more grain purchases, including 27,000 tons of hard red winter wheat.
A spokesman told UPI that the trade mission hopes to place upwards of $800 million worth of orders for farm and industrial products during a U.S. visit. The purpose of the buying spree is to help offset the balance of trade deficit between the U.S. and Taiwan, he said.