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Wed, Apr 14, 2010 - Page 10 News List

China will make its own call on currency, Hu says

NO STOCK PHRASENotable by its abesence was a comment the Chinese president was expected to make that a stable yuan was benefiting the global economy

REUTERS , BEIJING AND WASHINGTON

A shop owner exchanges a yuan banknote in central Beijing yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

China will chart its own course in reforming the yuan, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) said as US President Barack Obama renewed his call for a more flexible Chinese currency.

The two heads of state, meeting for the first time since Sino-US tensions over the yuan threatened in recent months to escalate into a serious trade dispute, chose their words carefully and, in the view of investors, left the door open for Beijing to resume appreciation in the coming weeks.

Hu said that China would not be pushed by external pressure and would instead base any decision on the yuan on its own economic needs. But he also made clear that it was committed to reform.

“China will firmly stick to a path of reforming the yuan’s exchange rate formation mechanism,” Xinhua news agency quoted Hu as telling Obama.

“In making reforms, we will give careful consideration to global economic developments and changes, as well as to China’s economic condition,” Hu said.

The yuan edged down in the offshore forwards market for a second day on Hu’s comments, but investors were still positioning themselves for a gradual resumption of the currency’s appreciation.

Three-month dollar-yuan non-deliverable forwards rose to 6.7610 from Monday’s close of 6.7500, pricing in 0.96 percent appreciation within three months.

“Political statements won’t prevail over economic and market realities. The trend for China to abolish the yuan-dollar peg this year remains intact, with the earliest move possibly coming late this month or in May,” a senior dealer at a major Chinese bank in Shanghai said.

Beijing has frozen the yuan’s exchange rate against the dollar since the middle of 2008 to help cushion its economy from the global downturn, but the strength of China’s recovery has fuelled criticism of this policy and market expectations that it is about to resume appreciation.

Notable by its absence in Hu’s reported comments was a declaration, previously a stock phrase for Chinese leaders, that a stable yuan was benefiting the global economy.

Obama, for his part, touched only delicately on the yuan, with his focus on the summit at hand and securing Chinese backing for tougher sanctions against Iran’s nuclear activities.

“The president reaffirmed his view that it is important for a … sustained and balanced global economic recovery that China move toward a more market-oriented ­exchange rate,” said Jeffrey Bader, a top White House adviser.

The US Treasury this month delayed publication of a report that politicians had urged Obama to use to name China a currency manipulator, potentially paving the way for punitive trade measures. China had warned repeatedly that foreign criticism of its currency policy would be counterproductive. Hu said a stronger yuan would not be a panacea for woes afflicting the world’s largest economy.

“Yuan appreciation would neither balance Sino-US trade, nor solve the unemployment problem in the United States,” Hu said.

He said that China wants to increase its US imports, especially of high-tech products. Repeating a decade-old mantra from Beijing, Hu urged Washington to loosen its export controls of such goods.

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