China hits back at US lawmakers on currency

BEIJING: China on Tuesday dismissed calls from US lawmakers for Beijing to be labelled a currency manipulator, saying the value of the yuan was not to blame for global trade imbalances.

The comments echoed those by Premier Wen Jiabao at the weekend, who said Beijing would not yield to foreign pressure to allow the yuan to appreciate, and warned other countries to stop "finger-pointing".

On Monday, a group of 130 Democratic and Republican lawmakers called on US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to single out China's yuan policy in a report due next month, saying Beijing was in effect subsidising exports.

"The impact of China's currency manipulation on the US economy cannot be overstated," the lawmakers said in the letter submitted to Geithner and US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

"Maintaining its currency at a devalued exchange rate provides a subsidy to Chinese companies and unfairly disadvantages foreign competitors."

But Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Yao Jian said the strong yuan -- effectively pegged to the dollar since mid-2008 -- was not the reason for China's trade surplus.

"It would be unfounded and meaningless for some people in the United States to back their calls (for China to be labelled a currency manipulator) by citing China's trade surplus and US deficit and the US recovery needs," Yao said.

"The United States... cannot ask others to (raise) their currency for the sake of its own export expansion -- that would be an egotistical practice," the spokesman added.

"Politicising the exchange rate issue will not help the world to tackle the crisis," he said, adding that China hoped Washington would be "an advocate of free trade, not an obstructor".

The United States and the European Union, key trade partners for China, say the Communist leadership has intentionally kept the currency low to boost its exports, vital to the country's emergence from the global economic crisis.

US President Barack Obama last week called on Beijing to adopt a "market-oriented" exchange rate policy, upping the pressure on China to allow the yuan to appreciate.

Wen on Sunday rejected all outside interference in China's exchange rate policy decisions and said a stable yuan had helped not just China, but also the world, emerge from the worldwide slowdown.

"We are opposed to the practice of engaging in mutual finger-pointing among countries or taking strong measures to force other countries to appreciate their currencies," Wen told a news conference.

The value of the yuan has become a major sticking point in relations between China and the United States, which are badly strained over a number of other issues including a spate of trade disputes, Tibet, Taiwan and Internet freedom.

The US lawmakers said in their letter to Geithner and Locke that China's exchange rate policy "threatens the stability of the global financial system".

The US lawmakers said in their letter to Geithner and Locke that China's exchange rate policy "threatens the stability of the global financial system".