US asks China to end 'unfair' currency policies

The US ambassador to China on Monday urged Beijing to end its "unfair" currency policies and stop discrimination against American firms, amid growing trade frictions between the two countries.

In a strongly-worded speech, Gary Locke called for fairness in US-China economic ties, reiterating criticism of Beijing's exchange rate policy, which Washington says makes the value of the yuan currency artificially low.

"Fairness... means ending discrimination against US companies, ending unfair trade preferences for domestic firms, ending what we see as unfair, distorting currency practices," Locke told US and Chinese business and government officials.

Speaking at an annual event organised by the National Committee on United States-China Relations -- a non-profit group -- he also called for improved protection of intellectual property rights and a more open investment climate.

The value of the yuan has been a constant thorn in the side of bilateral relations, with the United States blaming China's currency controls for creating huge international trade imbalances.

Beijing has repeatedly vowed to loosen its grip on the yuan but has rejected calls for a faster appreciation, for fear of hurting its vast manufacturing sector, a key driver of the world's second-largest economy.

Foreign firms have also repeatedly complained of discrimination when competing with domestic companies in China, particularly in the lucrative government procurement sector.

But Beijing has eased some rules that blocked foreign firms from the procurement market, which is said to be worth $1 trillion a year.

Locke, the former US commerce secretary, said China was welcome to join a US-proposed free-trade zone spanning the Pacific, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

He added that China and other participants in such multi-lateral agreements must create a "level playing field".

US officials have previously not publicly sought TPP membership for China, whose trading policies are often criticised as protectionist. Beijing has said it is considering whether to join.

Locke also had strong words for China on human rights, urging Beijing to go beyond just improving living standards.

"That's not how we in the United States view human rights," he said, responding to questions after the speech.

"Our view of human rights is more than just raising the standard of living for the people of China," he said, giving examples of the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion and allowing dissenting opinions.

Rights group Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders said earlier this month that a crackdown on dissent following protests across the Arab world made 2011 the worst year for human rights in China in a decade.

  • Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future 45 minutes ago
    Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future

    It’s more than just its inherent speed, or the whooshing noise that fills the cabin like a school choir jamming with James Hetfield. It’s what it represents in an industry full of skeptics. It’s a portal into the future – a time capsule left by some mad scientist born decades too soon. It’s something that shouldn’t exist. And yet it does.

  • Man drives three-wheeled Mustang along a Texas highway 5 hours ago
    Man drives three-wheeled Mustang along a Texas highway

    Some things in life are hard to explain, like why a dentist insists on asking you questions when you clearly can't respond. Or why we call pants "a pair" even though it's just one. Or how about this puzzler: Why a person would drive their Mustang along a Texas highway despite it missing a wheel? Life is full of little mysteries, I guess.

  • How a mom stole a car in under 60 seconds 23 hours ago
    How a mom stole a car in under 60 seconds

    “I didn't steal your car but I think my mom may have. It's a long story. I'll explain, but your car is safe and sound," read the flier posted in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It’s a strange tale that began when Cheyrl Thorpe was asked by her daughter Nekisia Davis to dog sit her Pomeranian at her apartment, according to New York Magazine.

  • Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers
    Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers

    Singaporeans on social media reacted angrily to news that tissue sellers at hawker centres and street corners are being required to pay for an annual licence.

  • Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry
    Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry

    Heart-wrenching messages of fear, love and despair, sent by high school students from a sinking South Korean ferry, added extra emotional weight Thursday to a tragedy that has stunned the nation. Nearly 300 people -- most of them students on a high school trip to a holiday island -- are still missing after the ferry capsized and sank on Wednesday morning. Mom, I love you," student Shin Young-Jin said in a text to his mother that was widely circulated in the South Korean media.

  • Indonesia’s armed forces chief says “no apology” for warship’s name
    Indonesia’s armed forces chief says “no apology” for warship’s name

    General Moeldoko, the head of Indonesia’s Armed Forces, has clarified that he had not apologised for the naming of a warship after two Indonesian marines who had been involved in the 1965 MacDonald House bombing in Singapore.