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China asks US senators for more tech and visas

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SHANGHAI, Mar 24 (Reuters) China wants the United States to relax restrictions on its high-tech exports and ease access to visas for Chinese citizens, two visiting US Senators told reporters today.

Sen. Charles Schumer reiterated that ''the jury is still out'' on whether he and Sen. Lindsey Graham would bring to a vote a bill to impose import tariffs of 27.5 percent on Chinese goods if Beijing refused to allow its currency to float more freely.

''I believe in my heart that they agree that they should let their currency float,'' Schumer said, adding that financial mechanisms were now in place to allow a more rapid appreciation.

But Graham told the news briefing ''a 3 percent change, to me, is still strong evidence that there's manipulation going on.'' The pair, in China on a fact-finding mission, complain that the Chinese currency is undervalued by between 15 and 40 percent, undermining U.S. manufacturers and fuelling China's large trade surplus with the United States.

They have been in China for the past week meeting officials in Beijing as they seek greater flexibility in the yuan's exchange rate to better reflect its true value. They stressed on Friday that they were not seeking a definite timetable but ''clear evidence'' that the currency was responding to market forces.

''We're beginning to sniff real results,'' Schumer said in Shanghai at the end of the pair's trip, adding that no decision on whether to proceed with the bill would be reached until they got back to Washington next week.

If passed, the bill would not actually impose tariffs until two years after it was enacted, providing leeway for China to effect the desired reforms, Schumer said.

''We did because we knew what would happen, and we know what will happen, the two governments will get together, come up with the agreement that we've been seeking anyway, and the tariffs wouldn't take effect,'' he said.

''Obviously our preference is to get the two governments to agree to a reasonable timetable.

But China had also raised its own concerns on issues it believes are impeding bilateral trade, including restrictions on technology transfers and on the issuing of visas for Chinese visiting the United States, Schumer told reporters.

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