US commerce secy urges China to open markets

BEIJING: US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke has said that China should open its domestic markets and loosen its currency controls to help the global economy out of the financial crisis.

"If China allowed for greater flexibility in its exchange rate and further opened up its domestic markets for imports and foreign direct investment, it would accelerate the world's return to growth," Locke told a business lunch.

China's control of its currency, the yuan, has long been a source of friction between the two countries, with the United States arguing Beijing keeps the rate artificially low to protect its crucial export sector.

It also believes the controls prevent US exporters from getting access to China's huge domestic market.

"For all our areas of agreement, the United States and China's trade relationship has to evolve. There are concerns and deep structural issues to be addressed," Locke added, on the first day of a three-day trip to China.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made a similar call for greater currency flexibility during a visit to Beijing last month.

Locke is travelling with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

He is due his Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming on Wednesday afternoon.