Harper to discuss fiscal policy in China visit

Mon Nov 30, 2009 2:31pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper will likely discuss fiscal policy with Chinese leaders during his first visit to the country later this week, but it was not clear if he would raise the issue of foreign exchange policy, an aide to Harper said on Monday.

When asked if Harper would call for China to let its currency rise more freely, an issue that is constantly raised by G7 leaders, spokesman Dimitri Soudas would not say.

"Just like he doesn't comment on the value of the Canadian dollar, he doesn't comment on the value of other currencies," Soudas told reporters at a briefing before Harper's visit, which starts on Wednesday.

"But it is expected that the prime minister, in the wide range of meetings that he'll be having, there will be exchanges related to fiscal policy," he said.

Soudas noted that Harper had expressed concern with China's yuan currency at G20 meetings in the past. Harper will visit China and South Korea from December 2 to December 7.

China pushed back on Monday against calls to let its currency rise, with Premier Wen Jiabao warning that lifting the yuan could hamper growth. He reaffirmed China's determination to take its own, gradual steps on the currency front, but said that for now the yuan, also known as the renminbi, was being kept broadly steady.

Canada is co-chairing the G20 summit with South Korea next year, where Chinese policy is likely to be high on the agenda. Canada will also be the host of next year's G7 and G8 meetings.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Peter Galloway)

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at the airport in Port-of-Spain ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) November 26, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>