Paulson, Negroponte to visit China

Updated: 2007-02-22 09:11

WASHINGTON - US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, continuing efforts to deal with America's huge trade gap with China, will make his third visit to the country next month since joining President Bush's Cabinet last July.

The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that Paulson will meet in Beijing with government officials on March 7 and deliver a major speech on China's capital markets in Shanghai on March 8.

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The administration is trying to convince the Chinese to open their financial markets to greater participation by U.S. companies as a way to strengthen the Chinese financial system by introducing American expertise and greater competition.

The U.S. claimed that its trade deficit with China hit a record $232.5 billion last year, prompting more calls by Democrats in Congress for the administration to do more to deal with the soaring imbalance.

Paulson announced last week that he was setting up a telephone hotline to connect him directly with Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, his counterpart in a new high-level dialogue designed to ease trade tensions between the two nations.

Paulson also announced he had tapped Alan Holmer, a pharmaceutical executive and former top trade official in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, to be his top deputy oveseeing the China discussions. The next meeting of the U.S.-China dialogue is scheduled for May 23-24 in Washington.

In addition to China, Paulson will stop in Tokyo for meetings on March 5 with Japanese Finance Minister Koji Omi and Toshihiko Fukui, the head of Japan's central bank.

On March 6, Paulson will meet in Seoul, South Korea, with top finance officials in that country, Treasury spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said.

Negroponte plans to visit Asia

WASHINGTON - U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte plans to visit Japan, China and South Korea soon but will not go to North Korea, the State Department said on Wednesday.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey denied a Financial Times report that quoted an unnamed official as saying Negroponte planned to add Pyongyang to his itinerary.

"The deputy secretary is not going to North Korea," Casey told reporters. "He is, however, planning on traveling to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul ... I believe the dates on that are March 1-6."

Negroponte, who became deputy secretary of state last week, plans to focus on Asia and the upcoming trip will give him a chance to consult on issues including North Korea's nuclear programs, Casey said.

At six-party talks in Beijing last week, North Korea agreed to seal its main nuclear reactor and the source of its weapons-grade plutonium in return for an initial 50,000 metric tons of fuel or economic aid. Those talks include the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

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