updated 5/27/2005 6:36:30 PM ET 2005-05-27T22:36:30

The Bush administration on Friday turned down the latest request for a trade case to be brought against China over its currency system, marking the third time it has refused to take the dispute to the World Trade Organization.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman rejected a petition filed in April by House and Senate members asking the administration to use a provision in U.S. trade law, known as Section 301, that allows economic sanctions to be used against unfair trade practices.

“We do not believe that a Section 301 action is appropriate or a productive way” to achieve the goal of a flexible Chinese currency system, Portman’s spokesman Richard Mills said in a statement.

The decision came a little more than a week after the Treasury Department refused in a report to Congress to cite China as a country that manipulates its currency to gain trade advantages.

The latest petition was filed by 22 House members and 12 senators who raised the same arguments as U.S. manufacturers: that China is unfairly manipulating its currency to gain trade advantages by retaining for the past decade a system that links the yuan to the U.S. dollar at a fixed value of 8.28 yuan to the dollar.

“For a third time, the administration is turning a blind eye to China’s unfair trade practices,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in response to the latest rejection.

Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., said if the administration keeps rejecting the petitions, “Congress will take other actions. This is a serious issue that harms American workers and businesses each day that it continues.”

Legislation pending in both the House and Senate would impose across-the-board tariffs of 27.5 percent on China if it continues to refuse to drop its link to the dollar.

American manufacturers contend this has undervalued the yuan by as much as 40 percent, making Chinese products cheaper in the U.S. market and American goods more expensive in China.

Critics blame China’s currency system for contributing to the loss of 3 million U.S. manufacturing jobs over the past five years. They also blame China’s system for a soaring trade deficit that hit a record $617 billion last year, including a $162 billion imbalance just with China, the largest ever with a single country.

Friday’s announcement marked the third time the administration has turned down a request for the United States to bring a trade case against China over the issue before the World Trade Organization.

It rejected an earlier petition from lawmakers last November and before that turned down a petition by a group of unions and manufacturing companies that had sought to pressure the administration in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign.

In rejecting the latest petition, Mills said the administration shared the goals of the petitioners for a “flexible, market-based exchange rate system” in China but continued to feel there were better ways to achieve that goal than by filing a trade case.

Treasury Secretary John Snow, testifying before Congress on the issue Thursday, predicted that China would move to make its currency system more flexible over the next five months, before the administration’s next report on the issue to Congress in October.

The administration, which initially argued that China should allow its currency to float freely with its value set by global currency markets, now contends that such a move would be too disruptive in the near term. It argues that an interim step should be taken.

While the administration has not specified what that step would be, currency experts say China could link the yuan’s value to a group of currencies from other countries, not just the dollar, or it could create a band within which the currency could trade.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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