BEIJING — President Obama and President Hu Jintao of China pledged Tuesday to move forward with coordinated efforts on trade and financial reform following the global economic crisis, although neither side spelled out specifics.

This story first appeared in the November 18, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Obama, on his first trip to China, and Hu appeared before scores of journalists at the Great Hall of the People in what was billed as a press conference. No questions were taken, however, as both presidents simply read prepared remarks and issued a joint policy statement.

The statement focused heavily on economic collaboration, but also touched on issues such as North Korea, climate change and human rights.

“The major challenges of the 21st century, from climate change to nuclear proliferation to economic recovery, are challenges that touch both our nations, and challenges that neither of our nations can solve by acting alone,” Obama said. “That’s why the United States welcomes China’s efforts in playing a greater role on the world stage, a role in which a growing economy is joined by growing responsibilities.”

In his speech, Obama prodded China on currency reform. China’s yuan, which is no longer supposed to be strictly tied to the dollar, has been flat for months even though economists say it is undervalued. Hu did not address the issue.

“I was pleased to note the Chinese commitment, made in past statements, to move toward a more market-oriented exchange rate over time,” said Obama. “I emphasized in our discussions, as have others in the region, that doing so based on economic fundamentals would make an essential contribution to the global rebalancing effort.”

Obama arrived in Shanghai on Sunday evening and held a town hall-style meeting on Monday with local university students. He then traveled to Beijing for meetings with Hu and other top leaders. He leaves for Seoul on Wednesday, after a visit to the Great Wall.

Obama faces many competing pressures in China. The country holds more U.S. treasury bills than any other investor, but also has a massive trade surplus with the U.S. Obama has struck a more conciliatory tone than past American presidents, as tends to be his way, but also perhaps in recognition of China’s economic power.

“Going forward, we agreed to advance the pledge made at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh and pursue a strategy of more balanced economic growth, a strategy where America saves more, spends less, reduces our long-term debt, and where China makes adjustments across a broad range of policies to rebalance its economy and spur domestic demand,” said Obama. “This will lead to increased U.S. exports and jobs, on the one hand, and higher living standards in China on the other.”

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