Obama Calls on China to Alter Exchange Rate

Will announce the National Export Initiative to double American exports to ease unemployment

U.S. President Barack Obama on March 11 called on China to embrace a "market oriented" exchange rate for its yuan currency, saying such a move would help rebalance the global economy.

He said that the world needed to rebalance the mix of exports and imports driving growth in the aftermath of the financial crisis. "Countries with external surpluses need to boost consumption and domestic demand," Obama said in the remarks released by the White House.

"And as I've said before, China moving to a more market-oriented exchange rate would make an essential contribution to that global rebalancing effort."

Obama's carefully phrased comments on the yuan represented the latest sign of discord between Beijing and Washington following a series of recent spats over the economy, Tibet, Taiwan and diplomacy. China last month mounted its latest defense of the value of the yuan, rejecting accusations that it was responsible for global trade imbalances.

The commerce ministry said maintaining a stable currency was a "top priority" and was necessary for the survival of Chinese companies and supporting jobs growth in the world's third-largest economy.

Obama also referred to the stalled Doha round of trade talks and U.S. free trade deals with partners in South Korea, Panama and Colombia, but did not give a timetable for their implementation. "We'll continue to work towards an ambitious and balanced Doha agreement -- not just for the sake of any agreement, but for one that enhances market access for American agriculture, goods, and services."

"We'll strengthen relations with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia, with the goal of moving forward with existing agreements in a way that upholds our values."

Obama was treading a careful line on trade, between commercial lobbyists who want to push trade deals and Americans feeling the lash of the economic crisis who see such pacts as tantamount to sending U.S. jobs overseas.

The president was also to use his speech on March 11 to the Export-Import Bank's annual conference, to unveil an ambitious strategy to double American exports to ease an unemployment crisis at home.

The National Export Initiative will create an export promotion cabinet and other federal agencies linked to exports, which Obama wants doubled in five years to support two million new jobs in America battling nearly double-digit unemployment.

Obama will also re-establish a presidential export council -- a principal private-sector advisory committee on international trade -- and name two prominent business leaders to lead the council, officials said. They are Boeing president and chief executive Jim McNerney and Xerox chief executive Ursula Burns.

The export strategy will strive to improve access to financing for businesses that want to increase exports, enforce existing trade deals and "level the playing field" for American businesses and workers and promote

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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