Bush Vows to Seek ''Fair'' Asia Trade
President will seek a ''level playing field'' for US exporters during trip
SAN BERNARDINO - 10/18/03 - President George Bush has left for Asia promising to increase pressure on U.S. trading partners to create a "level playing field" for American exporters, a critical base of support for Bush in the run-up to next year's election, writes Reuters reporter Adam Entous.
Reporting from Southern California, Entous writes that Bush will prod the leaders of Japan and China to let the market determine the value of their currencies, and vowed to expedite bilateral free-trade negotiations with Australia, Thailand and other "friends" after World Trade Organization talks in Cancun, Mexico derailed last month.
While he expressed optimism that the US economy is "coming around," Bush said: "We need a level playing field when it comes for trade and a level playing field will help us create jobs here in America."
"Free trade must be two way," Bush added in San Bernardino before departing for Japan to meet Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He will later travel on to Bangkok for the upcoming annual summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, where he will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The Administration wants Beijing to loosen up its currency regime, in which the Chinese yuan is pegged to the dollar. US officials argue that the fixed peg renders Chinese exports cheaper, making it hard for American companies to compete.
Japan's currency floats freely but its central bank intervenes in the foreign exchange market. Bush has made clear his preference for less intervention by Japanese authorities to weaken the yen against the dollar, telling Asian journalists in an interview earlier this week? that "markets ought to be determining respective currencies."
In the interview, the full transcript of which was released by the White House, Bush said he hoped to revive global trade negotiations. "I wouldn't condemn the WTO (Doha) round to failure yet," he said.
"The sense I get is a lot of countries feel this was a missed opportunity" and that U.S. trade negotiators believe "there is a framework to get the process restarted and moved forward," Bush added.
In the meantime, Bush said he would seek bilateral free-trade agreements, including one with Thailand. Asked if a deal could be signed during his state visit in Bangkok, Bush said: "I don't know. We'll see."
The President said he also hoped to complete a free-trade pact with Australia before the end of the year.
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