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Updated: November 18, 2009 21:32 IST

U.S., China to fight protectionism

Ananth Krishnan
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U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrive at Diaoyutai State Guest House before their bilateral meeting in Beijing on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009. Photo: AP
AP U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrive at Diaoyutai State Guest House before their bilateral meeting in Beijing on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009. Photo: AP

United States President Barack Obama wrapped up his three-day China visit on Wednesday, after discussing trade issues with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The two countries pledged to work together to fight protectionism, but appeared to make little progress on resolving differences over China’s currency policies.

The U.S. has in recent weeks reiterated its calls for China to appreciate its yuan currency, saying it has been devalued by Beijing and has led to trade imbalances. Mr. Wen gave no commitment on changing policies, but assured Mr. Obama that China “did not pursue” a trade surplus.

The trade gap between the two countries rose to $268 billion last year, and has continued to widen. According to recently released U.S. trade data, the trade deficit in September was $22 billion, a 9.2 per cent increase and the highest since last November.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama pressed Chinese President Hu Jintao on China’s exchange rate regime. But there was no mention of China’s currency policies in the joint statement the two leaders issued after their meeting. Analysts said this indicated Mr. Obama had failed to move China on the issue.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Wen on Wednesday also discussed the two countries recent trade spat over import duties. This month, the U.S. initiated its largest ever trade action against China, imposing preliminary anti-dumping duties on $2.6 billion worth of Chinese oil-well pipes.

Beijing described the move as “abusive protectionism”, and responded by imposing duties on American cars. Mr. Wen said the two countries agreed to work together to fight protectionism, and Mr. Obama committed to handling trade frictions without harming the interests of the two countries.

On Tuesday, the two countries had pledged to cooperate on a range of global issues from climate change to nuclear proliferation, even as differences over trade and human rights appeared to remain unresolved.

Mr. Obama spent his last few hours in China touring the Great Wall.

“It gives you a perspective on a lot of day-to-day things that don’t amount to much,” he told reporters, before leaving for South Korea and the last leg of his Asia tour.

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