Obama addresses global trade imbalances with Hu
By BEN FELLER,Associated Press Writer AP - 2 hours 8 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Friday opened his relationship with Chinese President Hu Jintao, promising cooperation in a phone call that broadly covered sensitive trade issues, the global financial crisis and the North Korean nuclear threat.
Both leaders pledged to "build a more positive and constructive U.S.-China relationship," according to the White House's account of the call.
The relationship between the two powerhouses is often a tricky one. The United States relies on China's help on such matters as reining in North Korea's nuclear weapons development, but clashes with the communist government over human rights. And some economic strains are showing, too.
The U.S. trade deficit with China is the largest ever recorded by the U.S. with a single country, and it recently has been setting new monthly highs. U.S. manufacturers contend China has slowed the pace of currency reform to cope with a global economic downturn that threatens to harm its export-driven economy.
In the phone call, Obama stressed the need to "correct global trade imbalances," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. The U.S. president and Hu agreed that close cooperation is vital to stimulate worldwide economic growth and to get credit flowing more freely, Gibbs said.
China is the U.S. government's largest creditor. China holds roughly $2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves and surpassed Japan in September as the biggest foreign holder of Treasurys. The U.S. trade deficit with China totaled $246.5 billion in 2008 through November.
Among other topics, Hu and Obama discussed Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, counterterrorism, nuclear proliferation and climate change.
The White House said Obama thanked China for its leadership role in the so-called six-party talks, the effort aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear weaponry. It encompasses the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.
Obama's call follows criticism of China's currency policies by Vice President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and a "buy American" provision that has been attached to White House-backed stimulus legislation moving through Congress.
Chinese censors silenced part of a live broadcast of Obama's inaugural address, removing references to communism and dissent.
Associated Press writer Tom Raum contributed to this story.
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