Snow, Greenspan to Lead Beijing Talks

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will lead a U.S. delegation to Beijing to discuss economic issues including China's efforts to reform its currency system. The high-profile team underscores the desire of the United States to see China accelerate efforts to have the value of its currency set by market forces.

China recently ended a decade-long practice of tightly linking the yuan's value to the U.S. dollar but has allowed the yuan to rise by only 2.1 percent, far below the level that U.S. manufacturers believe is necessary to redress a huge trade imbalance.

Snow also appointed his department's first permanent representative in China, sending Treasury veteran David Loevinger to Beijing to push U.S. positions on exchange rates, copyright piracy and banking.


U.S., Oman Agree to Eliminate Barriers

The United States and Oman announced they have reached an agreement to eliminate trade barriers between the two nations. The Bush administration said the agreement marked another milestone in its goal to establish a free trade area throughout the Middle East by 2013.

"This is a high-quality, comprehensive free trade agreement that will contribute to economic growth and trade between both countries," U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said.

The agreement is expected to have little trouble gaining congressional approval. Trade between the countries totaled $748 million last year.


Pharmacy Companies Agree on Merger

British pharmacy firms Boots and Alliance UniChem announced a merger valued at 7 billion pounds ($12 billion) that would give the combined health and beauty retailer a stronger European presence as it competes with supermarket chains. The new company, to be called Alliance Boots, would have combined annual sales of 13 billion pounds ($22.9 billion), 2,600 stores in Britain and 300 stores in continental Europe.

Boots and Alliance said the merger would generate at least 100 million pounds ($176 million) of savings within four years, partly through job cuts of about 1,000. The companies employ about 100,000 combined.


Autoworkers Ratify GM Contract

General Motors employees represented by the Canadian Auto Workers union ratified a three-year contract on Sunday that cuts more than 1,000 jobs and calls for the company to invest in some plants. Terms were similar to the union's new contracts with Ford and DaimlerChrysler, and the total vote in favor was 80 percent. The CAW has 17,100 members at GM.

Compiled from news service reports.

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, left, and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will spearhead U.S. economic talks with China in Beijing. A key issue will be the valuation of China's currency.