Paulson: US needs yuan flexibility

(Washington Post)
Updated: 2006-11-29 13:44

LONDON - The United States needs greater foreign exchange flexibility from China, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Tuesday as the dollar continued its slide against most major currencies.

Addressing a conference in London, Paulson said there had been a fair amount of tension between Beijing and Washington over economic policy -- the US has long wanted China to let its yuan currency rise against the dollar.

"Part of this relates to a widespread feeling in the US that the benefits of trade between the two countries aren't being shared evenly or fairly," he said. "There is a need for flexibility and greater currency flexibility."

But he added the dialogue between the two countries was also focused on longer-term issues related to China opening up its markets and pursuing economic reforms.

Sharing the platform with Paulson, British finance minister Gordon Brown said economic reform in China was paramount.

"The way forward is going to be not simply by talking about the level of currency but by opening up financial markets first of all and making sure that there is access to opportunity to China for British firms," he said.

Both men used their speeches to make a plea against a rising tide of protectionism in the world economy and said there was an urgent need to restart world trade talks which had collapsed in July over an impasse on agricultural subsidies and tariffs.

"Despite the known benefits of trade, the protectionist sentiment that is rising in our two nations and elsewhere around the world is predicated on a false assumption that trade harms our economies," Paulson said.

Earlier, the dollar, falling since last Wednesday, hit a two-year low against the euro and was also trading near its weakest level since 2004 against sterling.

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