U.S. says China making progress on currency, urges more

CARTAGENA, Colombia Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:05pm EDT

An employee counts U.S. dollar banknotes at a branch of Huaxia Bank in Shenyang, Liaoning province in this March 18, 2010 file photo. China took a milestone step in turning the yuan into a global currency on April 14, 2012, by doubling the size of its trading band against the dollar, pushing through a crucial reform that further liberalises its nascent financial markets. REUTERS/Sheng Li/Files

An employee counts U.S. dollar banknotes at a branch of Huaxia Bank in Shenyang, Liaoning province in this March 18, 2010 file photo. China took a milestone step in turning the yuan into a global currency on April 14, 2012, by doubling the size of its trading band against the dollar, pushing through a crucial reform that further liberalises its nascent financial markets.

Credit: Reuters/Sheng Li/Files

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CARTAGENA, Colombia (Reuters) - A senior White House aide said on Saturday that China had made some progress toward easing restrictions on its currency but stressed the United States wanted to see more actions taken.

At a briefing with reporters in Colombia, where President Barack Obama is attending a summit with Latin American leaders, White House adviser Ben Rhodes said the Obama administration was closely reviewing Beijing's announcement that it was doubling the size of its yuan's trading band against the dollar.

"It comes in the continuum of us wanting to see the Chinese take more of these steps to see their currency appreciate to come in line with market value," Rhodes said. "They've made some progress. We'd like to see more movement."

The People's Bank of China said on Saturday it would allow the yuan to rise or fall 1 percent from a mid-point every day, effective Monday, compared to its previous 0.5 percent limit.

Currency experts said the move reflected a belief in Beijing that the currency is near its equilibrium level and that China's economy, although cooling, is sturdy enough to handle long-promised structural reforms.

China's currency is a sensitive topic in the United States, where many business leaders believe an undervalued yuan gives Chinese exports an unfair price advantage on global markets.

How to handle the issue with Beijing is a major issue in the U.S. presidential campaign, where Obama is running against Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who is primed to capture the Republican nomination.

At the Summit of the Americas, Obama has been stressing the potential of more U.S. trade with Latin America in an effort to counteract the impression his administration has largely ignored the region to concentrate on ties with other markets.

Asked if the White House was concerned that China has been increasing its footprint and influence in Latin America, Rhodes said: "We're not concerned at all," stressing the United States still exports more to Latin America than China does.

(Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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