House panel sets hearing on China trade concerns

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:57pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior Republican lawmaker on Tuesday announced a congressional hearing next week on Chinese trade practices he said were hurting American businesses and workers, but stopped short of promising action on Senate currency legislation to deal with the concerns.

"China's distorting trade policies are deeply troubling and cannot be allowed to stand," House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said in a statement announcing the October 25 hearing.

Camp put forth a list of concerns he said were "costing U.S. jobs," but did not include currency among them even though many lawmakers say China undervalues its currency by as much as 15 percent to 40 percent to give its exporters an unfair trade advantage.

The senior Democrat on Camp's committee, Sander Levin, criticized Republicans on that panel for waiting 10 months to hold its first hearing on China and for neglecting currency.

"Republican leadership continues to criticize the possibility of taking action to confront China's currency manipulation even as it pursues inaction on every other trade-distorting practice by the Chinese," he said.

"We should be taking action on all possible fronts. Hundreds of thousands of American jobs are at stake," Levin added.

Last week, the Senate approved a bill to pressure China to raise the value of its yuan against the dollar by allowing U.S. companies on a case-by-case basis to seek countervailing duties on goods from countries with an undervalued currency.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, has called the legislation "dangerous" because of its potential to start a trade war.

But a majority of House members, including 61 of Boehner's fellow Republicans, support a similar bill and Democrats are pushing for a vote.

Camp's statement referred to both the positive and negative aspects of U.S.-China trade.

"The Chinese market presents enormous potential for growing U.S. exports, which support American jobs. But China purposefully makes it harder to sell our goods and services, unfairly subsidizes its own companies, and blatantly steals the intellectual property of American businesses," Camp said.

He also suggested the onus was on the White House, rather than Congress, to devise a response to the problem.

"The President and his Administration should continue to press China to open its markets through every available avenue. And when China has violated its international obligations, the United States must aggressively enforce its rights," Camp said.

"I look forward to hearing the Administration's plan for addressing China's persistent barriers to U.S. exports and investment and exploring what should be done to ensure American employers and workers are treated fairly."

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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