U.S. President Barack Obama praised “significant progress” in expanding trade and commercial opportunities with China as he opened a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Obama said the session, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit of heads of major industrialized nations, was “a good opportunity to recap the work” between the two nations. The agenda included U.S. grievances that China keeps its currency artificially low to bolster exports, according to an Obama administration official, who briefed reporters and asked to not be named to describe the private meeting.
Obama said he also plans to discuss efforts to curb Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions as well as violence in Syria. China has protected Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with its veto on the United Nations Security Council.
Hu said China “is willing to work with the United States to build a cooperative partnership.”
Obama’s Republican challenger in this year’s election, Mitt Romney, says he’d be tougher on China trade policy, as the president seeks Chinese assistance on Iran and North Korea.
China is undergoing its own once-a-decade political transition and today’s meeting was the last scheduled between the chiefs of the world’s two largest economies before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is to take over as the country’s leader next year.
The Chinese economy has shown signs of slowing during recent months. China’s Commerce Minister, Chen Deming, said yesterday that growth may be improving this month after government measures, including its first interest-rate reduction since 2008.
China’s trade and currency policies have long been a source of friction between the two nations.
Romney has said would direct the Treasury Department to list China as a currency manipulator and slap sanctions on China for unfair trade practices.
As the U.S. seeks to exert pressure on Iran by restricting its oil exports, China -- the the world’s leading importer of Iranian crude -- remains exposed to possible penalties.
China was not among the nations the U.S. included in a list of countries qualifying for an exemption from financial sanctions on Iranian oil imports announced on June 11. The exempt nations “have all significantly reduced” the volume of the oil they buy from Iran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement accompanying the announcement.
Under the U.S. law enacted Dec. 31, nations have until June 28 to demonstrate they have “significantly reduced” the volume of their Iranian crude purchases. If they fail to do so, their banks that settle oil trades with Iran will be cut off from the U.S. financial system.