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Obama says US a 'pushover' on trade with nations like China

October 22, 2010

ObamaSEATTLE, Washington (AFP) – President Barack Obama said Thursday the United States had been a pushover on trade with developing nations like China and vowed to drive a tougher bargain for American products.

Obama, on a four-day swing through western states less than two weeks before congressional elections, argued that the global trading regime needed to be restructured so that it was more fair.

"When a lot of the trade rules were initially set up, I think we neglected to drive as tough of a bargain as we could have," Obama said, specifically mentioning China amid rising trade and currency tensions with Beijing.

Obama said that US trade negotiators had initially allowed China to base its economy on low wage or low skilled assembly line production which at the time was not a huge loss to the US economy.

But, he argued, at the latest of his nationwide series of "backyard" conversations with voters, that inevitably China had wanted to begin making more advanced products like computers and cars.

"They move up the value stream of the economy.

"If we have the same rules as we had where they are able to keep our products out but we are wide open to anything they want to send in then we are going to be at a huge disadvantage."

"I want to expand trade ... but I want to do so by driving a better bargain with our trading partners," Obama said.

"The truth of the matter is they probably expect it. They are probably trying to figure out why we have been such pushovers the last couple of decades anyway."

Obama has made repeated calls on China over its yuan exchange rate, which his administration contends is grossly undervalued to boost Chinese exports.

However, last week his administration delayed a controversial report on China's currency until after a key Group of 20 summit in Seoul in mid-November, averting for now a showdown between the two superpowers.

Beijing pledged in June to allow limited currency reform, since when the yuan has risen less than three percent against the dollar.

The US trade deficit with China ballooned to a new record in August, sharply widening the overall trade gap, according to official date released this month.

And in another side of rising tensions over US-China trade, the House of Representatives last month passed a bill allowing the government to impose countervailing duties on imports from nations found to be manipulating their currencies.

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