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US finance chief to raise China currency on Asia trip

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew speaks during the Center for American Progress(CAP) 10th Anniversary Conference in Washington, DC, October 24, 2013
US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew speaks during the Center for American Progress 10th Anniversary Conference in Washington, DC, October 24, 2013

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will raise concerns about China's trade policies and seek headway on an Asian trade pact during a visit next week.

Lew will start a trip Tuesday to Japan then visit three other countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations -- Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam -- before talks Friday in Beijing, the Treasury Department said Friday.

"In China, he will discuss progress on the reform agenda and efforts to level the playing field for US workers and business," a Treasury Department statement said.

Lew will also speak with China about enforcement of sanctions on Iran and North Korea over their disputed nuclear programs, it said.

The Treasury Department last week charged that China's yuan currency remains undervalued, which gives the manufacturing superpower a trade advantage.

But the Treasury stopped short of branding China a currency manipulator, a designation that could trigger sanctions.

President Barack Obama's administration has preferred quiet diplomacy with China and the yuan has gradually been rising, largely in response to inflationary concerns.

But in recent months, the Obama administration has been vocal in pressing China to crack down on theft of intellectual property, which a report this year said was costing US industry billions of dollars a year.

The United States has generally supported an aggressive push by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to boost the world's third-largest economy, although US lawmakers have also voiced concern about the depreciation of the yen.

Abe has brushed aside concerns by Japanese farmers to enter talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a US-driven effort to create a vast free-trade zone.

The pact would bring together the economies of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The countries, which account for more than one-third of the global economy, have called for an agreement by the end of the year but several officials have admitted publicly that the goal is unrealistic.

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