Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew

US Calls on China to Let Currency Rise Further

The Treasury Department, led until January by Timothy Geithner, preferred quiet diplomacy on exchange rates and declined to declare China a currency manipulator.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Thursday called on China to let its currency appreciate but credited the growing Asian power with moving in the desired direction.

Lew said he talked at length with Chinese officials about the rate of their yuan currency during the two-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the main annual meeting between the world's two largest economies.

"We have acknowledged that there has been progress in closing the gap, but we've also made it clear that there's still more progress that needs to be made in order to reach the point where there's truly a market-determined interest rate," Lew told reporters.

Lew said he saw an "overlap of interests" between the two nations in reforming China's exchange rate and opening up its billion-plus consumer market, as it would mean "more growth in China and more opportunity for U.S. exports."

"We are pushing hard for China to do things that China needs to do for itself," he said.

U.S. manufacturers charge that China has kept the yuan artificially low as part of a deliberate strategy to flood the world with cheap exports, which have been a key driver of the nation's years of breakneck growth.

Four top U.S. lawmakers across party lines, in a joint letter ahead of the talks, urged Lew to press China to move "more rapidly" towards what they considered an exchange rate set by market forces.

But pressure has eased on China as the yuan has risen by more than 15% against the dollar in the past several years, largely in response to concerns in China over inflation.

The Treasury Department, led until January by Lew's predecessor Timothy Geithner, preferred quiet diplomacy on exchange rates and declined to declare China a currency manipulator, a designation that could trigger sanctions.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013

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