US President Barack Obama told China’s President Hu Jintao on Saturday that Americans were “frustrated” and “impatient” at the pace of change in Beijing’s economic policy.
Obama delivered the frank warning in talks on the eve of a major Asia-Pacific summit, a senior US official said, after the president earlier warned that China must “play by the rules” of international trade.
The president’s direct language betrayed increasing US concern over the level of China’s yuan currency, which critics say is kept artificially low to boost exports, and Beijing’s observance of intellectual property standards.
The meeting took place amid rising domestic political pressure on Obama over China’s trade record, voiced again by Republican candidates in a campaign debate on Saturday as the 2012 presidential election campaign gathers pace.
In a public appearance before their talks in a Honolulu hotel, Obama and Hu did not stray far from diplomatic niceties, but economic tensions were clear.
Obama “made it very clear that the American people and the American business community were growing increasingly impatient and frustrated with the state of change in China economic policy and the evolution of the US-China economic relationship,” said Michael Froman, a US deputy national security advisor.
Obama said before the talks he wanted to discuss “efforts to jointly ensure that countries like Iran are abiding by international rules and norms” and said North Korea’s nuclear program and non-proliferation would also come up.
“We are both Pacific powers and I think many countries in the region look to a constructive relationship between the United States and China as the basis for continued growth and prosperity,” Obama said.