Obama and Hu to meet

April 7, 2010 12:00 am


WASHINGTON, Apr 7 – US President Barack Obama will meet President Hu Jintao of China next week on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, as both sides take steps to move on after weeks of irascible exchanges.

Since Obama visited Hu in Beijing in November, the United States and China have sparred at a distance over trade, currency disputes, Taiwan and Tibet, but each side has appeared to refocus on areas of common interest in recent days.

Hu\’s decision to join Obama\’s summit and Beijing\’s recently expressed willingness to at least talk about new nuclear sanctions on Iran at the UN, was matched by a US move to delay a Treasury report that could have branded China a currency manipulator.

The two leaders will meet, probably on Monday, on the sidelines of the 47-nation summit in Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

One of the issues Obama will raise will be the Chinese currency, which many American officials and lawmakers believe is being kept artificially low by Beijing to make its exports more attractive.

"The administration will continue to press the Chinese to, as the president has said, value their currency in a way that\’s much more market-based," Gibbs said.

There is growing impatience in Congress over China\’s yuan strategy, with some lawmakers lining up behind legislation that could include sanctions.

Signs of at least a temporary easing of difficult Sino-US relations emerged when Obama held a one-hour call with Hu while the US leader was flying home to Washington from Boston last week.

Obama "underscored the importance of working together to ensure that Iran lives up to its international obligations," the White House said following the discussion.

Hu\’s presence will add luster and credibility to the April 12 and 13 summit in Washington, which Obama hopes will draw a commitment to secure all loose nuclear material in the world within four years.

It will also draw attention to the US bid to frame a set of "biting" nuclear sanctions on Iran, which will be a subtext of the summit.

China, which has a close diplomatic and trade relationship with Iran, and is one of five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, has repeatedly called for a negotiated settlement rather than new punitive action.

But the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, last week said told Beijing had "agreed to sit down and begin serious discussions" on drawing up new sanctions against Iran."

Earlier Tuesday, China reiterated that its exchange rate policy was not to blame for a ballooning trade imbalance with the United States, and warned Washington against labelling it a currency manipulator.

"The RMB (yuan) exchange rate is not the reason for the trade deficit between China and the United States and the appreciation of the RMB is not the way to address the trade imbalance," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

"China has never used this so-called currency manipulation in an effort to benefit from international trade — we hope the US side can view this question in an objective way," she said.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said late Tuesday while on a visit to New Delhi that the decision to revalue the yuan "is China\’s choice, this is their judgement to make."

But he told India\’s NDTV network he was "confident that China will decide it is in their interest to resume the move to a more flexible exchange rate that they began some years ago and suspended in the midst of the financial crisis."

Tensions have also risen over US arms sales to Taiwan and Beijing\’s angry protests earlier this year over Obama\’s meeting with Tibet\’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Other disputes include human rights, climate change and Internet freedom after Google reported cyberattacks by China.

Obama will also hold a flurry of other meetings during the summit, including with leaders from Germany, India, Jordan, Pakistan and South Africa, Gibbs said.



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