Obama Touts ‘International Rules and Norms’ in Trade Talks with Chinese President

By Fred Lucas | March 26, 2012 | 10:44 AM EDT

President Barack Obama welcomes China's President Hu Jintao during a state arrival on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) – As trade with China becomes a looming election year issue, President Barack Obama told his Chinese counterpart that commerce between the two nations must be “in accordance with international rules and norms.”

Obama and Republican presidential candidates have criticized China for dumping products on the market, currency manipulation and other unfair trade practices.

Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao held a bilateral meeting while attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea.

Earlier this month, Obama announced that the U.S., European Union and Japan would join to take an unfair trade complaint against China before the World Trade Organization.

“I think this is also an opportunity to build on the excellent cooperation and dialogue across all the dimensions of our relationship that we’ve been able to establish over the last three years,” Obama said during public remarks along with Hu, according to the official White House transcript.

“So I’m looking forward to discussing economic and commercial issues, how we can continue to expand trade and make sure that there is strong mutual understanding about the potential benefits of commerce between our two nations, in accordance with the international rules and norms,” Obama continued.

Hu offered a very brief statement without addressing any specific issue.

“A month ago, Vice President Xi Jinping made a successful visit to the United States,” Hu said. “I asked him to hand to the president my reply to earlier letter, and I want to thank the American side for the warm hospitality and for all the arrangements made for his visit.”

Obama has touted the Trade Enforcement Unit he created to investigate any unfair trade that might be occurring anywhere in the world, and has insisted the playing field was not level for American businesses.

The WTO complaint against China regards competition for the alternative energy market, another high priority of the administration. Earlier this month, Obama also signed an “anti-dumping” bill that passed Congress on a bipartisan basis that allows the Department of Commerce to more strictly regulate trade from non-market economy countries, which would include communist China.

Meanwhile, GOP presidential candidates who hope to challenge the president in November have talked about China, prompting some foreign policy experts to fear a “trade war.”

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wrote, “Unless China changes its ways, on day one of my presidency I will designate it a currency manipulator and take appropriate counteraction. A trade war with China is the last thing I want, but I cannot tolerate our current trade surrender.”

In a Republican presidential candidate debate in October, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said, “I don’t want to go to a trade war. I want to beat China. I want to go to war with China and make America the most attractive place in the world to do business.”