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Locke calls on Beijing to give US clean-energy companies greater market access

BEIJING (AP) — Commerce Secretary Gary Locke called on Beijing to give U.S. clean-energy companies greater access to its market to help combat climate change.

Washington is looking to sales of clean-energy technology to China to help fulfill President Barack Obama's pledge to double exports and create 2 million jobs within five years, but Beijing is limiting access to its market, setting up a new trade clash amid disputes about currency, steel and other issues.

"American companies have the solutions that China needs," Locke told a business group in Beijing on Friday. However he said "too many government policies openly or implicitly discriminate against foreign firms."

Locke is leading a trade mission of 24 U.S. companies to China to promote sales of clean-energy technology.

China was the world's biggest market for wind, solar and other renewable technology last year, but foreign suppliers complain that Beijing is favoring its companies for government-financed projects and pressing suppliers to share technology.

Locke said he raised issues of "equal treatment" in meetings with Chinese officials this week. He said the meetings were "very productive" but he gave no details.

Locke, a former governor of Washington state, invoked his heritage as an American of Chinese ancestry and said he wanted to see China play a leading role in combatting climate change.

"I do not want the history books 100 years from now to say it was China that led the world to irreversible climate change," Locke said a lunch organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the U.S.-China Business Council.

"I want the history books to instead say it was China and the United States working together in partnership that created a second industrial revolution for cleaner and more efficient technology."

Locke repeated foreign complaints about the Chinese government's "indigenous innovation" policy that favors Chinese-developed technology in government procurement and other areas.

Following U.S. and European complaints about the policy, Beijing said this year it would make it easier for foreign companies with operations in China to qualify as suppliers.

However, Locke said the policy has the potential to "significantly disadvantage" foreign companies and might discourage foreign investment.