"For trade to work in any economy and for it to produce the benefits we know it can, there must be a level playing field where domestic and international companies can compete freely and openly."

Clinton and Timothy Geithner, the US secretary of treasury, are leading a delegation of nearly 200 officials to Beijing as part of an effort to help Barack Obama, the US president, deliver on his pledge to double US exports within five years and create two million jobs.

Chinese currency

One issue likely to come up is the trade advantage Beijing has because of an undervalued Chinese currency.

As the European financial crisis deepens, Beijing appears to be pulling back from expected moves to loosen its currency's peg to the US dollar.

China has kept the yuan at a rate of about 6.83 per dollar for nearly two years, seeking to cushion its exporters from the global financial crisis.

Some economists reckon the yuan is undervalued by up to 40 per cent against the dollar, giving Chinese exporters an unfair advantage in overseas markets.

In comments published on Sunday, Xie Xuren, China's finance minister, said cooperation with the United States was all the more important in the face of the European debt crisis.

"At present, risks from European sovereign debt have increased factors of instability in the course of global economic recovery," Xie wrote in a statement released on his ministry's website.

Clinton said that increased trade is a "win-win" situation for both countries, adding how American companies want to compete in China and sell goods made by American workers to Chinese consumers.