Schumer wants China to let currency float
COLONIE -- Sen. Charles E. Schumer vowed Wednesday to push China's leaders to let the country's currency float on world markets, claiming its low value has undercut New York's factories and cost the state thousands of high-paying manufacturing jobs.

Schumer said he will travel next week to China in an effort to persuade officials there to let the yuan float.

If that doesn't work, Schumer said, he and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will push for stiff new tariffs on Chinese products. The Schumer-Graham Currency Manipulation Definition Bill would levy charges of 27.5 percent on Chinese imports.

Schumer's push comes at a time when U.S. companies are seeking to sell their own products in China. Locally, some 120 Chinese businesses and 50 Chinese government officials have been invited by state and local business and trade officials to attend the U.S.-China Trade & Business Development Conference next month in Colonie.

The program, April 4 and 5 at the Holiday Inn Turf on Wolf Road, is intended to boost Capital Region trade, with such topics as "How To Do Business in China" on the agenda.

State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, when asked Wednesday about the tariff plan, said he expected China to reciprocate.

It may not help upstate manufacturers, Bruno said.

New York manufacturers have said they already face high utility, health care and other costs. "If businesses aren't competitive and they have the wherewithal to move, and we're in a global competitive economy, they're going to move," Bruno said.

Schumer said the state has lost 60,000 jobs since 2001 in the textile, machinery and computer equipment industries. In 2004 alone, he said, the nation's trade deficit with China in those industries increased by $50 billion.

Jim O'Keefe, managing director of Colonie-based NobleHousePartners LLC, a private equity firm with an interest in assembling "cross-border opportunities," said Schumer is taking a legitimate position with respect to his constituents.

The value of the Chinese currency is certainly making Chinese goods more competitive, he said. But it's difficult to say whether the tariffs would work as intended, he added.

At least one local trade official worried the move might backfire.

"I don't think that's the answer," said Brenda Kelley, executive director of the Capital Region World Trade Center in Schenectady. She said U.S. exports to China have been rising by double-digit rates over at least the past two years, and China's buying power continues to grow -- something U.S. companies will be able to take advantage of as markets develop.

"Our consumers are enjoying low prices. We are enjoying low interest rates because they have invested so heavily in U.S. treasuries," Kelley said.

Kelley's organization is co-sponsor of the April trade development conference in Colonie, which is being organized by the New York State Small Business Development Center. Information on the event is available at

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