United States lawmakers press China ahead of talks this week
BEIJING: American lawmakers are pressing China for action on currency and hightech trade in talks this week, and a planned Washington visit by President Hu Jintao next month has raised hopes Beijing might offer concessions.
The meeting of the U.S.China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade on Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington comes as Beijing faces rising congressional pressure over its swollen trade surplus. The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a measure to allow Washington to punish currency manipulation and the Senate is considering it.
Both sides are likely hoping for a "successful meeting with some deliverables" ahead of Hu's arrival in Washington in January, said Christian Murck, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.
"Because of the timing, expectations are higher," Murck said.
A group of 32 U.S. senators, both Democrats and Republicans, wrote to the chief Chinese envoy, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, ahead of the meeting to press for action on a list of chronic irritants.
They cited Beijing's failure to stamp out rampant product piracy and complaints that its currency controls keep its yuan artificially weak, giving China's exporters an unfair price advantage and wiping out U.S. jobs.
They also appealed for an end to Beijing's "indigenous innovation" policy, under which the communist government is trying to nurture domestic technology companies by favoring them in official procurement. Business groups complain that could shut foreign suppliers out of fast-growing markets for computers and other goods.
Beijing promised more exchange rate flexibility in June but the yuan has strengthened by only about 3 percent against the dollar since then. Chinese officials have rejected a faster rise, saying that would lead to huge job losses.
Chinese envoys might be looking for ways to placate American critics but concessions are likely to be limited, said Ren Xianfang, senior analyst in Beijing for IHS Global Insight, a consulting firm.
"It has been almost a Chinese tradition for the government to make certain concessions regarding bilateral issues ahead of state visits," Ren said.
Beijing might promise more currency flexibility, but "actual implementation will certainly be aligned with China's own economic priorities at this moment, which means it will be gradual and it will remain unpredictable," she said. The U.S. trade deficit with China is especially sensitive at a time when Washington faces pressure to cut high unemployment. -Ap