Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an economic speech Friday, called
for a level playing field in world trade while lamenting what she said
were efforts by China to "game" the global trading system to its
advantage. She appealed for an end to partisan paralysis in Washington
over economic policy.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to The Economic Club of New
York, October 14, 2011.
In her speech to the New York Economic Club, Clinton said advancement of
trade and investment should be a bigger part of U.S. diplomacy. But the
address, and a subsequent question-and-answer session, included some of
the sharpest Obama administration criticism to date over Chinese trade
The secretary said China, by deliberately holding down the value of its
currency to boost exports, has piled up the largest trading surplus in
world history to the detriment not only of the United States but other
"It is not only distorting the market, it is not only making our exports
more expensive, it is now beginning to impact on other countries as
well. So it is not the United States alone saying: China needs to
rebalance this artificial policy of depreciation which is good for their
exporters, which disadvantages their own people in many ways,” she said.
Clinton spoke sympathetically of legislation approved by the Senate
earlier this week threatening higher tariffs against China if the
currency imbalance continues.
The secretary downplayed fears by some opponents of the measure, the
fate of which is uncertain in the House of Representatives, that it
would trigger a trade war.
don’t think there’s anything wrong with standing up and asserting
ourselves. And I don’t see that leading into the kind of protectionism
that you rightly warn about from the 1930s," she said. "The Obama
administration has said about the Schumer bill in the Senate that
anything we would do needs to be consistent with our international
obligations including WTO obligations. But we also don’t want to be
taken advantage of.”
Clinton said she has been confronted on recent foreign trips with
concern by allies about the impasse on deficit-cutting efforts in
Washington that caused a near-default on bond debt by the U.S.
government two months ago.
“I think we are at a standstill in that debate here at home and I deeply
regret that, because I don’t think we have the time to be so caught up
in our own political arguments,” she said.
The secretary said the U.S. political parties and business community
need to rebuild a “team-America spirit” and cannot afford, in her words,
to “remain paralyzed by ideology and partisanship.”