Business and pleasure before politics

Scott Tong Apr 19, 2006

TEXT: Business and pleasure before politics
Chinese President Hu Jintao has been having a good old time in Seattle.

He gave a big speech today that went over pretty well.

And he bought billions of dollars worth of American products.

But Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports the rest of his trip might not be quite as much fun.

SCOTT TONG: President Hu spoke today at a Boeing plant, one day after pledging to buy $5 billion worth of 737s. In other words, it was a friendly audience.

[SOUND: Hu speech in Chinese]

HU TRANSLATION: “Boeing’s cooperation with China is a vivid example of the mutually beneficial cooperation and win-win outcome that China and the United States have achieved.”

TONG: Tomorrow’s stop in D.C. may put a check on all the checkbook diplomacy. As Presidents Hu and Bush chat and do lunch, the Treasury Department will be deciding whether to tag Beijing with the embarrassing label of “currency manipulator.” The decision’s due any day. Many argue the Chinese yuan is undervalued and makes its exports to the US unfairly cheap. But is that manipulation?

Here’s Gary Hufbauer of the Institute for International Economics:

HUFBAUER: There’s a lot of judgment that goes into it. And, of course, judgment in Washington often has political overtones. And in this case it definitely has political overtones.

TONG: He says if tomorrow’s visit goes well, the Feds will back off. . . . There is another risk awaiting Mr. Hu: protectionist bills. One would impose 27% tariffs on Chinese imports.

HUFBAUER: That, I think, is actually the bigger sword hanging over the Chinese head. And whether that sword is unsheathed will again depend on the tonality of the visit.

TONG: With lawmakers nervous about China, Hufbauer says, it’s no accident Hu’s coming to town while Congress is out.

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