US and China meet on trade

Playing down tensions over currency, foreign ministers discuss economy as they prepare Hu Jintao's upcoming US visit.

    Yang Jiechi (l) and Clinton met ahead of Hu Jintao, the Chinese president's visit to the US on January 19 [AFP]

    The US and Chinese foreign minsters have met to discuss the global economy, as tensions between the two nations continue over financial policies.

    Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Yang Jiechi, the Chinese foreign minister, met on Wednesday in Washington DC, stating afterwards that the two countries wanted to boost trade between the two nations.

    "Both sides reflected on the current state of the global economy and our interest in building more trade between the two countries," PJ Crowley, the State Department spokesman, said after the talks.

    The meeting was held in preparation for Hu Jintao, the Chinese president's visit to the US on January 19. Barack Obama, the US president, is expected to meet his Chinese counterpart.

    The two biggest economic powers wanted to iron out points of contention before the visit, such as China refusing to lower it's exchange rate, which the US has said is putting pressure on its exports.

    Sense of responsibility

    "We are preparing diligently for the upcoming state visit by President Hu Jintao. It's very much anticipated and looked forward to," Clinton said as she posed for photographs with Yang.

    "And both the minister and I feel a great sense of responsibility to ensure that it continues the positive, cooperative comprehensive relationship between our two countries."

    Yang said: "I think China-US relationship is on the right track. We are confronted with common challenges and we are enjoying common opportunities.

    "It's in the best interests of China, the United States and the world for us to continue to work together so that our relationship will bring more benefits to both our two peoples and to the people of the world"

    Yang added that preparations for Hu's visit are "proceeding very well".

    Tensions rose last year between the two nations mainly due to the mutual blame both sides give for China's large trade surplus - slated to rise to $270bn this year.

    The US says China is artificially maintaining a cheap currency, giving it an unfair advantage in trade.

    China has said that the US is printing extra money to weaken the dollar and improve its export levels.

    Nuclear issues

    The White House said that they would not drop their demand for China to devalue its yuan currency.

    "China plays an enormously important role in our global economy, and China has to take steps to rebalance its currency," Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said on Wednesday.

    "And the president will continue to make that point when President Hu is here, as he did with the foreign minister."

    The two nations are also facing tough diplomatic challenges over the handling of nuclear programmes in Iran and North Korea.

    Washington has been urging China to put more pressure on ally North Korea, which in November shelled a South Korean island, killing four people and raising tensions.

    On Tuesday, Yang saw national security advisor Tom Donilon at a White House meeting that Barack Obama, the US president, dropped in on.

    "They discussed ways to advance our nonproliferation objectives, including working together to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, to meet its commitments and international obligations and to avoid destabilising behavior," the White House said in a statement.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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