Chinese President Hu Jintao avoided specific commitment on allowing the yuan to appreciate during talks on trade and economy with the United States but promised on Monday to work with the US on economic recovery.
REUTERS - China struck a conciliatory note on Monday by promising to spur its domestic demand at the opening of Sino-U.S. talks, but it avoided specific commitments, including on whether to allow its currency to appreciate.
The United States, which has called for a stronger Chinese exchange rate, also treaded softly on the subject as the two sides held their second Strategic and Economic Dialogue, welcoming Beijing's long-standing pledge to reform the yuan.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, speaking at the opening session, said the two global powers needed to enhance economic policy coordination and work together to promote "full economic recovery".
The world's biggest and third-biggest economies are seeking to steady relations after a burst of tensions early this year, and while Hu broke no new ground on the currency dispute that has divided them, he set an amicable tone for the two days of talks.
"China will continue to steadily advance reform of the renminbi exchange rate formation mechanism following the principles of being independent, controllable and gradual," he said. The renminbi is another name for the yuan.
Hu said his government wanted to expand domestic demand to create more balanced growth, something that Washington -- worried about its yawning trade deficit with China -- has also advocated.
At the meeting, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appealed to Beijing to work together to reduce trade barriers and develop a more balanced global economy.
He indirectly urged China to ease up on its "indigenous innovation" policies aimed at giving Chinese companies a larger share of new cutting-edge technologies developed in China.
On the yuan, which has been effectively pegged to the dollar since the global financial crisis worsened in mid-2008, Geithner said the Chinese government was moving in the right direction.
"We welcome the fact that China's leaders have recognized that reform of the exchange rate is an important part of their broader reform agenda," he said.
Trying to press the case that yuan appreciation would be in China's own interest, Geithner said that a more market-driven exchange rate would help suppress inflation while also driving private firms to move up the value chain.
Pressing North Korea
The vows of closer economic coordination were partly offset by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's effort to coax China into joining international pressure on North Korea after South Korea found it responsible of torpedoing its warship in late March, killing 46 sailors.
China is the sole major backer of North Korea, and has not publicly criticised Pyongyang over the alleged sinking, instead issuing broad calls for restraint. Earlier this month, China hosted the North's leader, Kim Jong-il, on a visit.
"We must work together to address this challenge and advance our shared objectives for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," Clinton told the meeting.
Tensions flared between Beijing and Washington in the first months of 2010, when China denounced U.S. criticism of its Internet censorship, Washington's arms sales to Taiwan, and President Barack Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's
Beijing considers Taiwan a part of its territory, and Hu said on Monday that it was important countries respected one another's sovereignty.
Beijing officials have said they want only "quiet discussion" of U.S. complaints that the Chinese currency is held too low in value, giving Chinese manufacturers an unfair advantage.
The Obama administration so far appears willing to go along in the hope a quieter approach will give Beijing more political space to let its currency appreciate.
Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, told a news conference that the euro, not the yuan, had come up for discussion in the opening session of the dialogue. China's "basic principles" of exchange rate policy were unchanged, he said.
China's main official newspaper, the People's Daily, on Monday repeated the government's position that a rise in the yuan would not help the U.S. economy anyway.
The annual U.S. trade deficit with China fell to $226.8 billion in 2009, down from a record $268.0 billion in 2008. But the Obama administration is keen to lift exports, and the deficit remains a point of friction with Beijing.
U.S. officials have sought to concentrate attention on policies they claim may unfairly impede U.S. companies hunting for customers in China.
Date created : 2010-05-24