US President Barack Obama today accused China of unfair trade practices that hurt the American economy as the US Senate advanced a bill to retaliate against Beijing for alleged currency manipulation.
Obama, speaking at a White House press conference, stopped well short of backing the legislation and even worried it could violate World Trade Organization rules but delivered an unsparing assault on China’s policies.
His comments came as the US Senate defied White House complaints and stiff opposition from China and big business to press ahead with legislation punishing Beijing for alleged currency manipulation.
The proposal, powered by a tide of US voter anger at the sour US economy and high unemployment ahead of November 2012 elections, calls for retaliatory duties on Chinese exports if the yuan’s value is unfairly “misaligned.”
Senators voted 62-38 to end debate on the measure, barely clearing a 60-vote hurdle, as supporters promised the bill would help create much-needed jobs and narrow the country’s yawning trade deficit with China.
While the legislation seemed set to pass in the Senate as early as Thursday, it faced an uncertain future in the House of Representatives, where Republican House Speaker John Boehner has signaled the “dangerous” legislation will die.
Few in Washington dispute the charge that China keeps the yuan unfairly low against the dollar, giving its goods as much as a 30 percent edge over comparable US products, widening the US trade deficit and costing American jobs.
But the measure’s opponents warn that it risks sparking a trade war with China, and say a rise in the yuan will boost manufacturing and therefore jobs in countries like Vietnam or Malaysia — not in the United States.
And they contend that, if successful, the bill will increase the cost of commodities or consumer goods from China, hurting rather than helping US businesses and families.