Hillary courts Chinese people; tough mission nears

Hillary would be pushing China for more balanced economic ties with the US.

Beijing: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Sunday that she would be pushing the Chinese for a "more balanced economic relationship" with the US in upcoming economic and strategic talks in Beijing.

Those talks, to be co-chaired by Hillary and US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, are likely to be dominated by efforts to win China`s support to punish North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean warship. But the US officials will be focused on economic issues as well.

"For trade to work in any economy and for it to produce the benefits we know it can, there must be a level playing field where domestic and international companies can compete freely and openly," she told workers at a Boeing maintenance facility at Shanghai`s Pudong Airport.

Hillary said she, Geithner and the US delegation would press the Chinese for greater regulatory transparency, non-discrimination, fair access to markets and strong enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Geithner and Hillary are leading a delegation of nearly 200 officials to Beijing as part of an effort to help President Barack Obama deliver on his pledge to double US exports within five years and create two million jobs.

One issue likely to come up is the trade advantage Beijing has because of an undervalued Chinese currency.

As the European financial crisis deepens, Beijing appears to be pulling back from expected moves to loosen its currency`s peg to the US dollar, saying the euro`s slide to four-year lows against the dollar is putting too heavy a burden on its own exporters.

China has kept the yuan at a rate of about 6.83 per dollar for nearly two years, seeking to cushion its exporters from the global financial crisis. Some economists reckon the yuan is undervalued by up to 40 percent against the dollar, giving Chinese exporters an unfair advantage in overseas markets.

While trying to make progress on economic issues, Hillary will also be trying to win Beijing`s support for punishing its ally North Korea.

She faces a hard sell convincing China`s leaders that they should back UN penalties after an international investigation blamed North Korea for sinking a South Korean Navy ship.

Her trip has been a hectic and intense three-nation journey to Asia. She stopped briefly in Japan on Friday, and her schedule put her in Beijing on Sunday and the South Korean capital of Seoul on Wednesday.

"Virtually every major challenge that we face in the world requires China and the United States to work together," she told staff at the US Consulate General in Shanghai.

Bureau Report

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