US presses China on trade ahead of a key meeting on the economy

THE US yesterday pressed China to give “fair access” for foreign companies, and China stressed the risks both economies face from Europe’s debt woes, ahead of top-level talks in Beijing.

Speaking a day before the start of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the importance of US economic concerns for relations with China. “In the coming days, officials at the highest levels of our two governments will be discussing issues of economic balance and competition,” Clinton said in a speech given in a vast hangar at Shanghai airport, referring to the Beijing meeting.

Clinton’s remarks underscored how large economic concerns will loom at the two-day meeting, jostling for attention with a range of other issues, including North Korea.

The United States’ annual trade gap with China fell to $226.8bn in 2009, down from a record $268.0bn in 2008. But the Obama administration is keen to lift exports and employment, and the deficit remains a point of friction with Beijing. The imbalance has fuelled accusations from the US Congress and manufacturing sector that China is manipulating its currency for an unfair trade advantage.