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Obama pushes China on currency, human rights

President Obama wrapped up his tour of Asian countries, which included stops in Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. He addressed security and environmental policy, the economy and U.S.-Asia relations.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration had not expected "that the waters would part and everything would change over our almost two-and-a-half day trip to China."

After his talks with Hu, Obama took a quick, 35-minute tour of the Forbidden City, the ancient imperial palace in the heart of Beijing. Throughout his first trip to China, the president has had to juggle several different and sometimes incompatible goals: coaxing China into providing more help on the international scene, nudging it toward greater openness at home and assuring ordinary Americans that closer ties with Beijing will help them, not hurt them.

A lengthy joint statement released by Obama and Hu on Tuesday listed areas in which the two countries will work together, from the establishment of a Clean Energy Research Center to intelligence sharing and other steps to help curb terrorism and crime.

Hu, who is also head of China's ruling Communist Party, said China and the United States "share extensive common interests and broad prospects for cooperation on a series of major issues."

But there were no dramatic new deals or signs of any progress on vexing issues such as China's currency, which America and many of China's other trading partners view as undervalued and thus a big cause of the huge trade deficits that many countries now have with China.

Obama's leverage against China is limited by the fact that Beijing is now America's biggest creditor and holds Treasury securities worth nearly $800 billion. But Michael Froman, economic adviser on the National Security Council, said "the $800 billion never came up in conversation."

Speaking in the Great Hall of the People, Obama paid tribute to China for its economic successes and for what he said was its "critical" role in helping pull the world back from the brink after this year's financial meltdown. But, added Obama, "a growing economy is joined by growing responsibilities."

"The relationship between our two nations goes far beyond any single issue," Obama said. "In this young century, the jobs we do, the prosperity we build, the environment we protect, the security that we seek, all these things are shared.

"Given that interconnection, I do not believe that one country's success must come at the expense of another."

Obama said the two sides agreed to seek "more balanced economic growth" in the future, in which the United States "saves more, spends less and reduces long-term debt." In exchange, he said, China agreed to increase its domestic demand, meaning less reliance on its cheap currency to drive exports.

"This will lead to increased U.S. exports and jobs on the one hand, and higher living standards in China on the other," Obama said.

On climate change, Obama said the two leaders agreed on "a series of important new initiatives," including the establishment of the joint research center on clean energy. Obama said that "there can be no solution to that challenge without the efforts of both China and the United States."

Hu called the talks "candid, constructive and very fruitful" and said the two leaders agreed "to stay in close touch, through visits, telephone conversations, correspondence and meetings at international forums."

Staff writer Keith B. Richburg contributed to this report.


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