04/19/2006, 00.00
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Chinese President starts US visit at Microsoft and Boeing

Hu plans to stress advantages in good bilateral relations. Taiwan, Iran and trade are on the agenda in tomorrow's meeting with Bush. Protests on China's human rights record begin.

Seattle (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hu Jintao's first US visit since becoming Chinese President in 2003 is underway. With this visit, Beijing wants better economic relations with the United States and limit disagreements on issues such as human rights and exchange rates. Taiwan remains a sticking point.

Hu's four-day visit began in Seattle, where he was met by some of the most important business leaders from the US and elsewhere. He went on a tour of the Microsoft campus and dined at the palatial home of the company's chairman Bill Gates, the richest man on earth.

Today Hu will tour the Seattle production plant of aircraft maker Boeing, whose business has boomed on Chinese orders.

Derek Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said Hu would seek to highlight the positive aspects of China's economic engagement with the United States. This was reflected in Hu's visit to Microsoft and Boeing, two big sellers to the China market. But he explained that Bush would press Hu to take some concrete steps to reduce the US trade deficit with China—now running at more than US$ 200 billion a year—and to address US complaints that Beijing gets an unfair advantage from keeping its currency undervalued. The issue of intellectual property rights is also expected to be raised.

In tomorrow's meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Bush is expected to discuss Iran and Taiwan, trade and human rights, but whilst Taiwan tops Beijing's agenda, Washington wants China to take steps to correct the trade imbalance between the two countries and join the US in stopping Iran's nuclear programme.

After talks in Washington, Mr Hu will go to Yale University to give a speech on China's "peaceful development."

There have already been protests over China's human rights record as well as demonstrations by supporters of Taiwan and Tibetan independence and the Falun Gong movement.

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