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U.S. Coalition Charges China With Currency Manipulation

By Agence France-Presse An alliance of labor, industry and farm groups filed a complaint Sept. 9 charging China with creating unfair trade conditions and undermining U.S. workers and industry by manipulating its currency. The case, brought by a new group called the China Currency Coalition, is a first step that could lead to sanctions against China by the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- if the government of President George W. Bush accepts and champions the cause. The Chinese economy is becoming an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign, with both Bush and his rival, Sen. John Kerry, discussing the issue on the campaign trail. China's yuan has been fixed at 8.28 to the dollar for the past 10 years. With the Chinese economy so strong, this has given Chinese exporters a major advantage on world markets. "Every day, every week, every month, more U.S. jobs are lost to unfair Chinese competition," said David Harquist, an international trade lawyer with the group. The complaint was filed with the U.S. Trade Representative's office under Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act, which grants the office authority to impose sanctions and countermeasures. The U.S. trade deficit with China reached $124 billion in 2003, according to government figures. According to data gathered by the group, Chinese imports are undervalued by 40%, and U.S. exports to China overvalued by 40%. U.S. Trade Representative spokesman Richard Mills rejected the petition as "reckless." "The remedy it seeks of a 40% across-the-board tariff would put up walls around America, hurting U.S. exports, destroying U.S. jobs and endangering our economic recovery," Mills said. The Bush administration rejected a similar petition in April, describing it then as "a retreat into economic isolationism," he added. Rob Nichols of the U.S. Treasury Department said U.S. officials "recognize the importance of the China exchange rate issue" -- and that because of pressure from Bush officials "the Chinese have agreed that making this transition to a market-based exchange rate is one of their top priorities." National Association of Manufacturers Executive Vice President Michael Baroody called the filing "a counterproductive step" that could jeopardize U.S. efforts to revalue the Chinese currency. Coalition members include the American Iron and Steel Institute, textile manufacturers, and some of the country's largest labor unions, including the Teamsters and unions representing miners, auto workers, metal workers, and electrical and communication workers. The U.S. government has 45 days to accept or reject the petition -- which means the decision must be taken by Oct. 25, just days ahead of the Nov. 2 presidential vote. IW contributed to this report. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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