February 16, 2006

Senator says crafting bipartisan China bill

By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading U.S. senator said on
Thursday he was crafting a bipartisan bill aimed at ensuring
that China lives up to its international trade commitments.

"I've grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of
progress on China's currency, so that's one area I'm looking
into," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said
at a hearing on the 2006 U.S. trade agenda.

Many members of Congress are upset with Beijing's rigid
currency policy, which they say is partly to blame for last
year's record $202 billion trade deficit with China.

They say China's yuan is undervalued by 15 to 40 percent,
giving Chinese companies an unfair advantage in world trade.

Lawmakers also accuse Beijing of allowing rampant
counterfeiting and piracy of American goods, subsidizing
favored industries and blocking many imports.

"The key point is that China must live up to its
commitments and to its responsibilities as a major beneficiary
of the global trading system," said Grassley, an Iowa

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, any bill
Grassley sponsors has a better chance of becoming law than
several competing China bills that have been introduced.

Grassley said he planned to work closely with Sen. Max
Baucus, a Montana Democrat, to develop a bipartisan bill that
would address a number of broad trade concerns, such as
enforcement of international trade agreements.

Baucus and Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, introduced
legislation on Thursday to strengthen the U.S. Trade
Representative's office by creating a chief enforcement officer
to investigate suspected trade violations by other countries
and recommend appropriate U.S. action.

Another provision aimed more directly at China also calls
on the International Monetary Fund to more aggressively condemn
currency manipulation for trade purposes.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman told senators at the
hearing that China's currency practices were having an impact
on trade and "of course we should" do something about it.