Bush presses Hu on trade, forex

Beijing, Nov 20 | Updated: Nov 21 2005, 05:30am hrs
US President George W Bush pressed President Hu Jintao on Sunday to rein in Chinas swelling trade surplus and push forward currency reform after calling for greater religious freedom.

But there were few signs that China had offered any major concessions after talks in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square, with Hu retracing old steps with statements on willingness to cooperate further on the currency and trade.

One positive move on trade was an agreement by China to buy 70 Boeing 737s in a deal worth $4 billion. The near-perennial US trade deficit with China, a lightning rod for criticism in the US Congress, could top $200 billion this year.

At a joint news conference after their talks, Hu said he and Bush had expressed a willingness to join hands together to achieve more equitable trade and China would press ahead with the reform of its yuan currency. Hu, who accepted an invitation to visit Washington, most likely in the spring, also pledged Chinas cooperation in fighting the widespread piracy of American goods ranging from music and films to birth control pills and brake pads, which costs US manufacturers billions in lost sales each year.

Continuing a theme of his four-country Asia tour, Bush said it was important that social, political and religious freedoms grow in China.

To underscore this, the US president attended a Sunday service at Gangwashi Church, one of five officially recognised Protestant churches in the capital. Security officials cordoned off an area of several hundred metres around the church in western Beijing, which was heavily guarded by police in riot gear and plain clothes as groups of bemused locals stood around waiting for the president to pass by. May God bless the Christians of China, Bush wrote in the church guest book.