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Yuan, market access on agenda at China-US talks
by Staff Writers
Chengdu, China (AFP) Nov 21, 2011

China and the United States will announce on Monday the outcome of key trade talks that are likely focused on Beijing's currency policy and market access restrictions.

China was expected to push the United States to relax controls on high-tech exports to the Asian country during the meeting of the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

US Commerce Secretary John Bryson, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, US ambassador to China Gary Locke and other officials were meeting with a team led by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan for the two-day talks, which began Sunday.

Locke told reporters on Sunday that he was "looking forward to these talks", two days after he urged Beijing to further open markets and allow its currency to appreciate.

"These are very, very important economic times for both China and the United States and indeed the world," Locke said as he entered the first session in Chengdu.

The atmosphere at the annual talks was expected to be frosty after Obama said recently that Beijing had not done enough to allow the yuan to reach a fair market value and called on a now "grown up" China to act more responsibly.

US officials have long accused China of keeping its currency artificially low, fuelling a flow of cheap exports that helped send the US trade deficit with China to more than $270 billion in 2010.

But the issue has come to the political fore in recent months ahead of US presidential elections in November next year.

Last month the US Senate passed legislation that would punish China for alleged currency manipulation, raising hackles in Beijing, where state media warned it could spark a trade war between the two countries.

And on Thursday, Democratic US Senator Bob Casey said he had delivered the message that the US would not tolerate what he called China's "unfair trade practices" in a meeting with the head of the Asian giant's vast sovereign wealth fund.

"I think it is going to be hard for the US side not to bring up the renminbi," said Alistair Thornton, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in Beijing, using the official name for the Chinese currency.

Given the turbulence in the US economy and growing frustration among lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, Obama will "need that issue to be brought up at an event like this," Thornton said.

In an apparent response to growing US calls for a stronger currency, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Obama at the East Asia Summit in Indonesia that China would increase the flexibility of the yuan, state media said Saturday.

US and Chinese officials will resume talks on Monday morning before holding separate media briefings in the afternoon.

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