"U.S.-China economic ties have expanded substantially over the past three decades. Total U.S.- China trade rose from $2 billion in 1979 to $457 billion in 2010. China is currently the second-largest U.S. trading partner, its third-largest export market, and its biggest source of imports. Because U.S. imports from China have risen much more rapidly than U.S. exports to China, the U.S. merchandise trade deficit has surged, rising from $10 billion in 1990 to $273 billion in 2010. The rapid pace of economic integration between China and the United States, while benefiting both sides overall, has made the trade relationship increasingly complex. [...] Some Members of Congress have argued that, given the slow rate of U.S. economic growth and the high rate of unemployment, China's distortive trade policies can no longer be tolerated and have called for tougher action to be taken against China to induce it to eliminate policies that are deemed damaging to U.S. economic interests. [...] Opinions differ as to the most effective way of dealing with China on major economic issues. Some support a policy of engagement with China using various forums, such as the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED). Others support a somewhat mixed policy of using engagement when possible, coupled with a more aggressive use of WTO [World Trade Organization] dispute settlement procedures to address China's unfair trade policies. Still others, who see China as a growing threat to the U.S. economy and the global trading system, advocate a policy of trying to contain China's economic power and using punitive measures when needed to force China to 'play by the rules.''This report provides an overview of U.S.-China trade relations. It describes the trends in commercial ties, identifies major trade issues, and lists major legislation in the 112th Congress."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33536