WASHINGTON — President Obama met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping at the White House Tuesday and applauded China’s rise as an economic power while stressing the need for it to abide by international economic rules.

This story first appeared in the February 15, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We have tried to emphasize that because of China’s extraordinary development over the last two decades, that with expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities,” Obama said in brief remarks before a meeting with Xi. “And so we want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system, and that includes ensuring that there is a balanced trade flow between not only the United States and China but around the world.”

On the economic front, officials said a whole range of issues would be discussed, including the pace of China’s currency appreciation, unfair trade practices and intellectual property issues. Vice President Joe Biden said he and Xi focused on several issues during their discussions.

“Cooperation, as you and I have spoken about, can only be mutually beneficial if the game is fair,” Biden said at the State Department. “That’s why in the meetings we had this morning…we spent a great deal of time discussing the areas of our greatest concern, including the need to rebalance the global economy, to protect intellectual property rights and trade secrets, to address China’s undervalued exchange rate, to level the competitive playing field, to prevent the forced transfer of technology and to continue a constructive dialogue on policies that would benefit our citizens and the world.”

As he seeks reelection, Obama has taken fire from some Republican presidential candidates for being “soft” on China and refusing to directly confront its undervalued currency. Obama has pursued high-level diplomatic talks with Chinese leaders to prod them into letting the currency appreciate, instead of labeling China a currency manipulator, which could lead to sanctions at the World Trade Organization, and the currency has slowly appreciated. In addition, the Obama administration has challenged China by filing several unfair trade cases against it at the WTO.

“The main purpose of my visit is to implement the important agreement you had reached with President Hu Jintao and to do some work to move forward the China-U.S. relationship along in the right direction, set by you and President Hu — that is for our two countries to work together to build a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interests,” Xi said through an interpreter.

Xi participated in a roundtable with U.S. and Chinese business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday afternoon, and is slated to address public and private sector leaders in a speech today in Washington.

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