President Obama said Thursday he was
concerned that efforts by Congress to pressure China on its currency
The Senate is due to vote later Thursday on a bill that would authorize the Commerce Department to investigate cases of currency undervaluation by U.S. trading partners.
"I believe what I think most Americans believe, which is trade is great as long as everybody is playing by the same rules," Obama told a press conference at the White House.
"My main concern ... is whatever tools we put in place, let's make sure that these are tools that can actually work, that they're consistent with our international treaties and obligations."
Obama did not specifically support or reject Congress' efforts, but said he doesn't want such a move to be purely "symbolic," given the potential of running afoul of the World Trade Organization.
"I think we've got a strong case to make, but we've just got to make sure that we do it in a way that's going to be effective," he said.
If the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Act passes the 100-member upper chamber, it would still need approval by the lower House of Representatives. It was not clear if the conservative Republican leadership in the House of Representatives would support the bill.
Supporters said the legislation would combat the loss of US jobs because of competition from Chinese products that they said are underpriced because of an artificially undervalued currency.
China rejected that argument, saying the bill could instead result in a retaliatory wave of trade protectionism that could damage the fitful global economic recovery.
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