News / Asia

Obama Meets China's President, Germany's Merkel at G20 Summit

US President Barack Obama arrives at a reception for the G20 Summit in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010.
US President Barack Obama arrives at a reception for the G20 Summit in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010.

Leaders of the G20 advanced and developing economies will meet Friday for the final day of the G20 summit in Seoul.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama held wide-ranging talks with China's President Hu Jintao and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In brief remarks before their meeting, President Obama and President Hu made no specific mention of their dispute over Beijing's currency policies, a major issue both bilaterally and for the G20.

President Obama said the U.S. and China are seeing significant progress on a range of issues, and have a special obligation to ensure strong, balanced and sustained growth.  President Hu said China stands ready to work with the U.S. to increase dialogue and cooperation.

Further details emerged later from U.S. officials.  White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the currency issue was by far the bulk of the meeting.

China has been criticized for keeping the value of the yuan artificially low against the dollar and other currencies in an effort to help Chinese exports.  U.S. officials stressed before the G20 summit that the dispute over Beijing's currency policies would not be resolved in Seoul and would require additional efforts with Beijing.

In a news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak Thursday, Mr. Obama reiterated his concern about the dispute, while not specifically naming China.

"If individual countries are engaging in practices that are purposely designed to boost their exports at the expense of others, that can contribute problems as opposed to solving them," the president said. 

Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs Lael Brainard said President Obama noted the importance of China continuing to move its exchange rate, while the Chinese leader said there has been progress on the rate and, once again, stressed a strong commitment to the more flexible valuation regime introduced this year.

On other matters, Jeff Bader, senior director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, said the two also discussed North Korea, Iran, and Sudan, as well as human rights.  On Sudan, Bader said Mr. Obama urged President Hu to use China's influence to help ensure that referendums set to take place in January occur as scheduled.

Bader also said Mr. Obama emphasized the importance of freedom of expression and voiced the hope that people who are imprisoned for actions of political advocacy will be released. Bader's comments did not indicate if the president specifically mentioned the case of Liu Xiaobo, the jailed dissident who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month.

U.S. officials say President Obama's talks Thursday with German Chancellor Merkel focused on the agenda for next week's NATO summit in Lisbon, though they also discussed Afghanistan, the Middle East, and counterterrorism efforts.

Before the meeting, the president said that as two of the world's largest economies, the United States and Germany must make sure to work for balanced and sustainable growth. Merkel spoke of the need to send a good signal for global growth.

Leaders of the 20 leading economies gather Thursday evening over dinner and then hold more meetings Friday. Their goal is to build a consensus on ways to improve global economic growth and avoiding trade protectionism.

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