Clinton Presses China on Trade, Human Rights Issues

Posted November 10th, 2011 at 6:40 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is urging China to allow its currency, the yuan, to appreciate in value, remove barriers to trade and take steps to improve human rights.

Secretary Clinton spoke Thursday before the East-West Center in Hawaii, where she is attending a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders. In a wide-ranging speech, Clinton told her audience that making these changes would provide a stronger foundation for stability and growth – for China and everyone.

She said U.S. firms want fair opportunities to export to China's markets and a level playing field for competition. Additionally, the top U.S. diplomat said Chinese firms want to be able to buy more high-tech products from the United States, make more investments in the U.S. and be accorded the same terms of access that market economies enjoy.

Clinton recently said China, by deliberately holding down the value of its currency to boost exports, has piled up the largest trading surplus in world history to the detriment not only of the United States, but other major economies. She accused China of what she described as efforts to “game” the global trading system. U.S. President Barack Obama also made a similar accusation.

Beijing has signaled it will not give in to U.S. pressure to allow the value of its currency, known also as the renminbi, to rise. Last month, Chinese media quoted Premier Wen Jiabao as saying Beijing favors “a basically stable exchange rate” in order to protect Chinese exporters.

The U.S. Senate recently passed legislation threatening higher tariffs against China if the currency imbalance continues.

Separately, Secretary Clinton voiced U.S. concerns about China's human rights record. Clinton spoke briefly of recent incidents in Tibet of young people setting themselves on fire in what she described as desperate acts of protest. She called on China to “embrace a different path.”

Several Tibetan monks and nuns have set themselves on fire since March in China's Sichuan province to protest Chinese policies that Tibetans say brutally suppress Buddhism. The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, calls it “cultural genocide.”

China blames the self-immolations on the Dalai Lama, accusing him of advocating violence and Tibetan separatism – charges he denies.

Chinese forces took over Tibet in 1951. The Dalai Lama fled to exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.