U.S. senators and senior Bush administration officials head to China this
week, kicking off a decisive period in bilateral economic relations leading up
to President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington next month.
"These are momentous times for trade relations between America and China,"
Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said at joint news conference with
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, ahead of their trip to
pressure Beijing to revalue its yuan currency at a higher exchange rate to the
latest deadline of March 31 follows months of frustration that changes made by
China to its exchange rate mechanism last July have only led to an estimated 3
percent rise in the yuan's value, rather than the 15 percent to 40 percent
increase that many in the United States had sought.
US Senator Charles Schumer is seen in this
photo taken on February 21, 2006. [Reuters]
"You have our vote scheduled for the 31st. You have President Hu's visit and
you have the currency report," Schumer said, referring to a trio of events that
have the potential to shape U.S.-China economic relations for years to come.
Schumer and Graham are co-authors of a bill opposed by the Bush
administration and many in the business community that threatens China with a
27.5 percent tariff on its exports to the United States unless Beijing agrees to
revalues it yuan "at or near its fair market value," as determined by
Many U.S. lawmakers and manufacturers believe the yuan is so undervalued that
it gives China's products an unfair advantage that has cost millions of American
jobs and fueled a bilateral trade gap that hit a record $202 billion last year.
But China puts the surplus figure at US$114.2 billion.
Critics call the Graham-Schumer bill a dangerous plan that would roil
relations with the United States' third-largest trading partner and
fastest-growing export market.