A Showdown over Trade U.S. Officials Hit China on Human Rights, but Economic Policies Are Heart of Matter

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Crutsinger and Matthew Pennington Associated Press

WASHINGTON Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton launched high-level talks with the Chinese on Monday by pointedly criticizing Beijing's crackdowns on democracy advocates, arguing that long-term stability depends on respecting human rights.

At the same time, the world's two biggest economies clashed over America's massive trade deficit with China. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said it would be in China's self-interest to allow its currency to appreciate at a faster rate and allow Chinese consumer interest rates to rise. The stronger yuan and higher Chinese interest rates would help boost domestic demand and help lower America's trade deficit, which hit an all-time high with China last year.

But a Chinese official blamed U.S. policies for the ballooning trade gap. Commerce Minister Chen Deming told a news conference that China's currency appreciation was being carried out in a "very healthy manner." He said the United States needed to change its own policies on high-tech sales and investment as a way to spur American manufacturing.

The sparing occurred as the two nations began two days of talks aimed at addressing disputes in foreign policy and economic areas under discussions that began in 2006 during the Bush administration. Both countries hoped to use the Strategic and Economic Dialogue discussions to further ease tensions that had been inflamed by last year's U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and American unhappiness over a rising U.S. trade deficit with China at a time of high U.S. unemployment.

President Barack Obama, who served as host for Chinese President Hu Jintao during a state visit

in January, was meeting with the leaders of the Chinese delegation at the White House later Monday. …