De Gucht criticises China and US on trade
EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht has accused the US administration of having a protectionist agenda and reiterated concerns that China is manipulating its currency.
Mr De Gucht will form part of an entourage of EU commissioners heading to China next month, with the currency issue and ongoing trade concerns likely to be raised during the talks.
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"The yuan is under-priced," he told the Financial Times in an article printed on Thursday (18 March). "It certainly has an impact on their [US] export and trade patterns. The complaint is legitimate and there is awareness of that in Europe."
European businesses say Chinese exports gain an unfair advantage due to an artificially low yuan, although Beijing recently signaled it is considering a move to a more conventional monetary policy.
The governor of the People's Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, said this month that the yuan's unofficial peg with the dollar, in place since mid-2008, was a "temporary" measure to fight the financial crisis, and that "sooner or later" it would come to an end.
The Belgian politician also took aim at US protectionism, blaming Washington for holding up the currently stalled Doha round of multilateral free-trade talks.
"One of the problems is that we don't know exactly what the United States wants. They don't want to go forward for now, that much is clear," he said of the decade-old negotiations, in an interview with Belgian business daily De Tijd.
US congressional elections in November were partly to blame, he added, but singled out a commitment from President Barack Obama to double US exports over five years.
"I don't see how anyone can double exports if there's no movement towards free trade," he said. "Protectionism will not lead to a doubling of exports."
Global trade negotiators are set to meet in Geneva next week for a technical meeting. However part of the problem is that leaders are not giving their representatives enough room to manoeuvre, said Mr De Gucht, despite calling for the deal to be completed by the end of 2010.