Beijing urged to let yuan rise
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urged Beijing to let China's tightly controlled currency rise in value amid strains over trade and industrial policy at a high-level economic dialogue.
Beijing has allowed the yuan to rise gradually but Washington and other trading partners complain it still is undervalued, giving Chinese exporters an unfair advantage and hurting foreign competitors. Some American lawmakers are calling for punitive tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing fails to act faster.
This week's talks, overshadowed by a diplomatic tussle over a blind Chinese legal activist, come as a weak global economy and pressure on governments of developed countries to reduce unemployment are fuelling trade complaints against China.
The US considers "particularly important" the promise of a stronger yuan in China's latest five-year economic development plan, Mr Geithner said in prepared remarks for the opening of the two days of talks.
In more pointed language last month, Mr Geithner complained an undervalued yuan was a source of "unfair competition". He called for a "stronger, more market-determined" exchange rate and said that would help the global economy.
Chinese officials have said, however, that future gains by the yuan are likely to be limited, setting up a possible clash with Washington. Premier Wen Jiabao said in March the currency might have reached an "equilibrium exchange rate."
The United States reported its trade deficit with China reached an all-time high of 295.5 billion US dollars last year, up 8.2% from 2010's previous record.
The US Commerce Department announced last month it would impose new import fees on Chinese-made solar panels after concluding manufacturers received improper subsidies. Chinese authorities announced their own probe in November into whether US support for renewable energy companies hurts foreign suppliers.
China's envoy to the economic talks, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, called on Washington to ease controls on exports of hi-tech goods. Such controls are imposed on "dual-use" goods such as supercomputers with possible military applications. US officials have said relaxing them would do little to change the trade balance.
"The global economic recovery remains sluggish and the situation is grim and complicated," Mr Wang said. "We must continue to enhance coordination of macro-economic policies, work together to meet global challenges, and ensure economic growth and job creation in both our countries so as to contribute to a strong and sustainable recovery of the world economy."