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Wed, Oct 05, 2005 - Page 12 News List

US plans Beijing economic talks

CURRENCY REFORM The US is sending its top economic officials to China for talks and said a Treasury Department attache would be stationed permanently in Beijing


US Treasury Secretary John Snow and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will lead a high-level US delegation to talks in Beijing over economic issues including China's efforts to reform its currency system.

The fact that the trip this month is being headed by the administration's chief economic spokesman and Greenspan underscores the desire of the US to see China accelerate its efforts to have the value of its currency, the yuan, set by market forces.

In July, China announced it was halting a decade-long practice of tightly linking the yuan's value to the US dollar. However, China allowed the yuan to rise in value by only 2.1 percent, far below the level that US manufacturers believe is necessary. The US trade deficit with China last year hit an all-time high of US$162 billion.

Snow and Greenspan will be joined at the meetings of the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) on Oct. 16 and 17 by Chris Cox, the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Reuben Jeffery, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the administration announced on Monday.

The JEC serves as a regular forum for US and Chinese officials to get together to discuss economic issues.

By including Greenspan, one of America's top banking regulators, and the regulators of the US stock market and commodity markets, the administration will have a group that can provide advice to China over what changes it needs to make its financial regulatory system to allow the yuan's value to be set by market forces.

The administration also said on Monday that it was appointing David Loevinger, a longtime Treasury official, to be the department's first-ever permanent financial attache stationed in Beijing. Loevinger will be Treasury's top liaison on questions involving the implementation of a freely floating currency regime.

The Bush administration had faced a deadline of reporting to Congress on Oct. 15 on whether China should be branded a currency manipulator. Treasury spokes-man Tony Fratto told reporters on Monday that Treasury will miss that deadline and instead plans to issue the currency report early next month. He said this will allow Treasury officials to include information gathered from Snow's trip.

In addition to Beijing, Snow is scheduled to stop in Shanghai, to view a new office for China's foreign exchange trading system, and Chengdu, in western China, to get a look at the progress of economic reform outside of China's major coastal centers.

Before the JEC meeting, Snow and Greenspan will participate in Beijing in meetings from Oct. 11-13 with finance ministers and central bank presidents representing the other countries of the G20 nations, composed of the world's richest nations and major emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil.

Snow also plans to stop in Tokyo on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11 on his way to China for meetings with Japanese finance officials.

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