WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, facing pressure from Congress to name China a currency manipulator, met Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan in Beijing on Thursday but there was no word on whether they discussed a possible yuan revaluation.
“The two sides exchanged views on U.S.-China economic relations, the global economic situation and issues relating to the upcoming economic track dialogue of the second U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue,” the Treasury Department said in a brief statement that did not mention currency.
Wang and Geithner head the economic portion of the S&ED, which was expanded under President Barack Obama to include foreign policy concerns. The next meeting of the annual forum is set for late May in Beijing.
Thursday’s 75-minute meeting in the VIP lounge of the Beijing International Airport came just a few days before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s scheduled April 12-13 visit to in Washington for a nuclear security summit.
It also follows Geithner’s announcement last Saturday that he was delaying a hotly awaited April 15 report to Congress on whether China or any other country is manipulating its currency for an unfair trade advantage.
Geithner specified when he delayed the report that he hoped the S&ED and an upcoming meeting of the Group of 20 developed and developing country finance ministers would help persuade Beijing to move to a more market-oriented exchange rate.
The New York Times on Thursday reported that Beijing was very close to announcing a “small but immediate” revaluation of the yuan and would then let the currency fluctuate more widely.
Asked if Wang told Geithner on Thursday that China was ready to raise the value of its yuan, a U.S. Treasury official said:
“Secretary Geithner and Vice Premier Wang Qishan continued discussions they have had on global and bilateral economic and financial issues. They had a good meeting and we expect these discussions to continue in the coming weeks as we move toward the Strategic and Economic Dialogue in May and the G20 meetings in June.”
A combination of high U.S. unemployment and the huge U.S. trade deficit with China has put pressure on Obama to get tough with Beijing on trade and currency issues.
Many U.S. lawmakers say China’s currency is undervalued by as much as 40 percent against the dollar, giving Chinese exporters an unfair trade advantage.
Geithner’s surprise stop in Beijing, announced on Wednesday, came at the end of a trip to India.
Geithner was joined in the meeting by David Dollar, the Treasury’s economic and financial emissary to China. Wang was also accompanied by just one aide, a Treasury official said.
Reporting by David Lawder and Doug Palmer; Editing by Andrea Ricci