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House panel eyes action on China currency bill.

WASHINGTON: The House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee could vote as early as Friday on a bill that would allow the Commerce Department to apply duties against China s "undervalued" currency, a source familiar with the discussions said on Tuesday.

"I have heard from I think some pretty reliable sources there would be a markup on Friday, and it would go to the House floor next week," the source said, speaking on condition that he not be identified.

But as of late Tuesday afternoon, there was still no announcement from the House Ways and Means Committee about its plans for China currency legislation.

Earlier in the day, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer suggested it could be some time before there is a decision. "We ll wait to see what the Ways and Means Committee determines to do over the next few days or weeks," Hoyer said.

The behind-the-scenes House discussions are taking place just before President Barack Obama meets on Thursday with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of an annual U.N. meeting in New York.

On Monday, Obama said China had not done enough to raise the value of its currency since announcing in June it planned to loosen a peg against the dollar.

Critics say China deliberately undervalues its currency by as much as 25 percent to 40 percent to give Chinese companies an unfair trade advantage.

House approval of a bill to pressure China to move faster to raise the value currency, even if the Senate does not take similar action, would be certain to ratchet up tensions between the world s two biggest economies.

In a strongly worded statement earlier on Tuesday, China s Foreign Ministry told the United States to stop pointing its finger at Beijing over the yuan and focus instead on fixing its fragile economy.

BILL BY TIM RYAN

The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing last week on possible currency legislation, focusing in particular on a bill offered by Representative Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, and Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican.

A spokeswoman for Ryan, lead sponsor of the bill, said on Tuesday the lawmaker was still awaiting word on committee action. "As of now, we ve heard of no decisions from the Ways and Means Committee or House Leadership as to whether there will be a vote," she said in an e-mail.

Committee Chairman Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, told reporters after last week s hearing he would consult with House Democratic leaders and others over the weekend about what next steps the United States should take.

Levin said he believed a "carefully crafted" bill that allows the Commerce Department to impose countervailing duties to protect U.S. manufacturers against China s "currency manipulation" would pass muster under WTO rules.

Senior senators have downplayed the possibility of Congress passing a China currency bill in the short time that lawmakers will be working before the Nov 2 congressional elections.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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