Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar is urging a stronger trade relationship between the U.S. and China on the heels of the Chinese president's visit to the U.S.
The Peoria, Ill., company, the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment, said Friday it inked a memorandum of understanding as part of the U.S.-China Trade and Economic Forum that it hopes will support greater U.S. exports from Caterpillar in the future.
China is already one of the largest export markets for Caterpillar products, with more than $2 billion in products delivered there in the last five years. Caterpillar has more than 7,700 employees across China.
"We realize there are important and substantive issues that exist between the United States and China, from currency valuations to the protection of intellectual property, and that these need to be resolved with a sense of urgency," said Rich Lavin, Caterpillar group president with responsibility for growth markets, including China.
"But we also know the way we resolve disagreements is important," he added. "Caterpillar will continue to urge policymakers in both the United States and China to resolve differences in an atmosphere of mutual respect -- not by threatening a trade war. We continue to believe that quiet diplomacy and multilateral forums offer a preferred path for resolving differences."
Caterpillar's statement comes after Chinese President Hu Jintao's high-profile state visit to the U.S. The visit resulted in job-creating business deals worth billions of dollars to U.S. companies. The business deals were among the highlights of a trip seen as key to building trust between the world's top two powers. The two sides played down differences and stressed areas of cooperation, though Hu faced a critical audience when he met with U.S. lawmakers.
Economic ties between the U.S. and China have caused increasing friction in recent years. U.S. manufacturers and some lawmakers assert that China undervalues its currency by as much as 40 percent, making its exports cheaper at the expense of those from the United States, contributing to high U.S. unemployment. They've also said the country has failed to quash rampant product piracy and policies that could shut foreign suppliers out of fast-growing markets for computers and other goods.
Obama stressed during Hu's visit the importance of the growing economic bonds between the two superpowers and said China was taking significant steps to curtail the theft of intellectual property and expand U.S. investment.