The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. plans a lobbying day with member companies to stress to the U.S. government that China should meet its obligations under the World Trade Organization.
The decision reflects rising U.S. plastics industry concern about trade with the Asian country.
In particular, SPI is alarmed by what it said is the Chinese government's decision to manipulate its currency to keep it undervalued by 40 percent, which SPI said violates WTO rules. China joined the WTO in early 2002, and SPI said it also wants to see China meet WTO market access and intellectual property provisions.
``In the past we've always been very much focused on helping SPI members do business internationally,'' said Lori Anderson, SPI's strategic planning and industry relations officer. ``But it has just become very obvious that the situation with China needs a particular look.''
The May 13-14 meeting will include meetings with members of Congress and discussions with speakers from Congress, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Department of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Underpinning the meeting is the rapid growth in Chinese trade: Imports of plastic products from China have risen from $1.4 billion in 1997 to $2.7 billion last year. U.S. plastic processing firms, by comparison, sent only about $200 million worth of goods to China last year.
Trade in plastic is not a simple picture. U.S. plastics processors had a trade surplus of about $2.7 billion with Mexico last year, for example, and the resin sector enjoys a large trade surplus with China. But China is attracting increasing attention in both the plastic products and mold-making segments, which is leading some companies to ask for government help, including trade assistance or trade protection.
SPI hopes the meeting will give the group a better sense of how to address the problem, Anderson said. The group wants to ``avoid the fist in the sky syndrome. Let's focus our energies on ways we can address the situation,'' she said.
Anderson also chairs a NAM task force on Chinese trade issues.
Chinese Embassy officials in Washington did not respond to a request for an interview.
NAM's top international trade official sees China's compliance record with WTO as mixed.
China is living up to some obligations, and most of the problems have been in the agricultural sector, said Frank Vargo, vice president for international economic affairs for Washington-based NAM. But he said WTO rules will be implemented in the future for areas that are more important to manufacturers, like letting firms distribute their products themselves and openly publishing safety standards.
Vargo said Congress is receptive to concerns about Chinese WTO implementation.
``NAM members' complaints in China double every month,'' he said. ``They are really going through the roof now. We are just at the beginning.''
As for the currency issue, Vargo said it is a violation of WTO rules for a government actively to manipulate its currency, but he said no one has ever brought a case like that before the trade body.
Beyond the May lobbying event, SPI also plans a June 25 breakfast forum on ``The Global Economy and the China Factor'' during NPE in Chicago.