China vows to boost imports

A Chinese official defended the country’s trade record Monday as a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama visited Beijing amid renewed pressure by American lawmakers over Chinese currency controls.

China’s deputy trade envoy, Chong Quan, rejected complaints that Beijing intentionally boosts its trade surplus by promoting exports while holding down imports. Speaking at a trade forum, Chong repeated promises to boost imports of resources and high-tech equipment and to ease costs for importers but announced no new initiatives.

“This criticism is unfounded,” Chong said. “China, in its own actions, makes its due contribution to the world’s economic development.”

Chong spoke as U.S. National Economic Council Director Larry Summers was in Beijing to meet China’s top trade official, Vice Premier Wang Qishan. No agenda was announced, but their talks were likely to include U.S. complaints that a weak yuan gives Chinese exporters an unfair price advantage.

China’s trade surplus widened in July to an 18-month high of $28.7 billion as imports weakened. That helped to fuel complaints by some American lawmakers who want Beijing to allow the yuan to rise or face possible trade sanctions.

American lawmakers set aside criticism of China’s trade policy while the two governments worked together to end the global crisis. But pressure has resumed as the crisis fades and American leaders face pressure to create jobs.

In June, Beijing ended an 18-month-old link between the yuan and the dollar and said it would allow a more flexible exchange rate, but the Chinese currency has risen by only 0.6 percent since then. The U.S. Commerce Department in August declined to launch an investigation of the currency complaints despite requests by some lawmakers.

American legislators have scheduled two congressional hearings this month on China’s currency and possible retaliatory measures.

“The House leadership has expressed interest in seeing measures passed. So that’s a very real risk,” said John Frisbie, president of the U.S.-China Business Council, on Friday during a visit to Beijing. The group represents 250 American companies that do business with China.

Frisbie said his group opposes sanctions as possibly damaging to trade and believes trying to dictate the yuan’s level against the dollar is unrealistic. He said he urged Chinese officials that he met during his visit to allow a more flexible exchange rate.

“You need forward progress because that will show dialogue works,” he said.

Washington and Beijing have accused each other of engaging in trade protectionism that economists warn could slow a global recovery.

The two governments are engaged in a series of disputes over access to each others’ markets for steel, tires, movies and other goods. The United States raised duties last week on Chinese-made aluminum products after Beijing slapped added tariffs on American chicken. Both sides concluded that producers were receiving improper subsidies.

“We hope that all countries can work together to fight trade protectionism,” said Chong, the Chinese trade official.
Source: AP

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