SHANGHAI, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The U.S. Embassy in China plans to lead several trade and investment missions to China over the next year to promote U.S. exports to China and investment that can help create U.S. jobs, Ambassador Gary Locke said on Thursday.
Speaking to a U.S. business group in Shanghai, Locke reiterated that a top priority of the administration of President Barack Obama was job creation.
“Over the next year I’m committed to leading five trade and investment missions to China’s emerging cities,” Locke said.
“We simply cannot wait for the Commerce Department or the Energy Department and other governors and mayors to lead trade missions here to China. There’s no reason why the Embassy and the consulates here can’t initiate these trade missions on our own.”
Locke said the missions would recruit delegations with a focus on high-growth sectors such as clean and renewable energy, transportation, health care, aviation, and information and communication technologies.
Locke’s comments come amid growing pressure from Washington for China to increase the value of its currency, the yuan, which critics say remains undervalued despite having risen by nearly a third against the dollar since mid-2005.
The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would pave the way for tariffs on some Chinese goods to compensate for Beijing keeping the yuan low to subsidise its exports at the cost of U.S. jobs.
The bill now faces the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, whose leaders oppose the measure and warn that it could start a trade war.
China on Thursday reported that its overall trade surplus narrowed for a second month in September, which some analysts said might help Beijing resist U.S. pressure on the yuan, making the case that it was dealing gradually with its economic imbalances.
Locke did not mention the issue of the yuan in his speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, and none in the audience asked about the issue of the yuan during a question-and-answer session, although some complained in private about the bill, saying it could hurt U.S. business interests.
Other U.S. business groups have been more vocal about the bill.
The American Chamber of Commerce in China, a separate entity to AmCham-Shanghai, said on Wednesday that it regretted the passage of the bill in the Senate.
“The Senate bill would damage the bilateral trade and investment relationship, weaken our standing in the World Trade Organization, and damage our national interests,” AmCham-China Chairman Ted Dean said in a statement. “We oppose it. It should not become law.”
The US-China Business Council also said in a statement on Wednesday that it thought the Senate bill would do more harm than good.