| WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao Wednesday urged business leaders to seek out opportunities in both countries.
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The two world leaders spoke at a roundtable with U.S. and Chinese business leaders where Obama said he wants the corporate world involved in the efforts to improve the trade relationship between the two nations.
"I think our goal here today was to make sure that we break out of the old stereotypes that somehow China is simply taking manufacturing jobs and taking advantage of low wages; the U.S. is importing cheap goods and thereby having cheaper products, but also putting strains on our employment base -- the relationship is much more complex than that, and it has much more potential than that", Obama said.
"And so my hope is that today, in the brief time that we have, we'll be able to hear some concrete ideas about how we make sure that trade is fair, that there's a level playing field; how can we protect intellectual property; how can we promote innovation; how can both of our governments remove barriers to trade and barriers to job creation."
Hu, speaking through a translator, told the business leaders they had made positive contributions not only to their countries' economies but to China-U.S. relations.
"Here I have a message to all of you -- that is, China is speeding up this transformation of economic growth pattern and economic restructuring", Hu said. "We are focusing our efforts to boosting domestic demand, especially consumer spending."
Hu said he and Obama had agreed to strengthen cooperation in the financial, economic, trade and the environment, science and technology, agriculture, infrastructure and other fields.
"So, indeed, there is a promising future for trade and investment cooperation between our two countries", he said. "I do hope that companies from both countries can seize the opportunities, take active options and achieve great things."
Hu said the welcome mat was down for American entrepreneurs in China and that China would support Chinese entrepreneurs making investments and doing business in the United States.
Hu's visit is an opportunity for Obama to push for greater market access to help narrow a huge trade imbalance in China's favor. Beijing's trade restrictions include requirements to transfer sophisticated technology, state subsidies to favored domestic companies and "indigenous laws" supporting Chinese homegrown businesses.
Nearly half of U.S. businesses surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai said they were discriminated against by Chinese regulators. The survey, released Wednesday, indicated 47.7 percent of 346 responding chamber members said regulators showed a preference for Chinese companies.
Obama also was expected to push China to let its currency, the yuan, appreciate at a faster pace, The Wall Street Journal said.
Beijing suggested shortly before Hu arrived in Washington Tuesday the Obama administration needed to remove barriers to Chinese companies' investment in the United States.
Hu had a private dinner at the White House Tuesday evening with Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and national security adviser Thomas Donilon, the White House said. The presidents met in the Oval Office Wednesday before attending the business roundtable.
Another issue expected to be on Obama's plate was China's alleged illicit technology trade with Iran, The Washington Times reported. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., planned a hearing Wednesday on "assessing China's behavior and its impact on U.S. interests."
Obama was expected to bring up China's record on human rights, officials said. The current Nobel Peace laureate, Chinese human-rights activist Liu Xiaobo, who called for political reforms and an end to China's communist one-party rule, is imprisoned in China, sentenced until 2020, for allegedly "spreading a message to subvert the country and authority." Obama won the prize in 2009.
The day was to finish with a black-tie state dinner in Hu's honor -- the first state dinner for China since U.S. President Bill Clinton hosted Chinese President Jiang Zemin in October 1997. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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