05/23/2007, 00.00
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Washington calls on Beijing to take concrete steps on currency and trade

Deputy Premier Wu is in the United States, heading a high-level delegation, to discuss trade, the economy, energy and industrial co-operation. Yuan-dollar exchange rate, Chinese food product safety and intellectual property rights are on the discussion table.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China’s deputy Premier Wu Yi began her visit to Washington yesterday for the second ‘strategic economic dialogue’ summit with the United States. But whilst Beijing stresses dialogue, Washington wants concrete results. So far trade and the economy have monopolised the meetings between Ms Wu and US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Ms Wu, who is scheduled to meet US congressmen today, will see US President George W. Bush at the White House tomorrow. Later in the day, she will address American business leaders.

In her opening statement to the two-day talks with Mr Paulson and his team, Ms Wu said China and the US should see each other as partners, not rivals, act with patience and avoid “politicising trade and economic issues” which would “make the situation more complicated.”

China’s goal primary goal is to pre-empt US protectionist measures, some of which have already been introduced.

For his part, Mr Paulson said many in US were disappointed by Beijing's lack of progress on reforms. For this reason, he reiterated Washington’s contention that ‘dialogue’ alone was not enough, and that China had “to show that words are precursors to action.”

The US Congress is currently pushing the Bush administration to contain the US trade deficit with China, which has already hit US$ 232.5 billion.

Republican presidential hopeful Duncan Hunter said this month that “we've lost 1.8 million jobs in the United States, high-paying manufacturing jobs, to China”. And the flow of manufacturing jobs to low-wage China has not yet ended.

The exchange rate between the US dollar and the yuan as well as the safety of Chinese food products, especially after pets died in the US from food contaminated with a Chinese-made ingredient, are also issues under discussion.

Intellectual property rights are another important bone of contention especially since they are hardly enforced in China despite US demands.

Beijing might however lift limits on foreign ownership of mainland banks. At present, foreign investors are allowed a 25 per cent stake in mainland banks.

The European Union is also pressuring China to adopt a more flexible exchange rate for the yuan. The EU trade deficit in favour of China rose by 30 per cent in the first two months of 2007.

Given the importance of the summit, Ms Wu came with a high-level Chinese delegation, including National Development and Reform Commission Chairman Ma Kai who is scheduled to meet US Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to discuss co-operation in the oil and cleaner energy fields.

Export-Import Bank of China Chairman Li Ruogu and Export-Import Bank of the United States Chairman James Lambright signed a memorandum of understanding for a long-term credit agreement that will cover most US export deals worth more than US$ 20 million.

“This agreement will expand US exports, US employment and propel trade development with China,” Mr Li said.

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