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U.S. Chamber wary of Romney’s China stand

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobbying organization, opposes Mitt Romney’s pledge to designate China as a currency manipulator if he is elected president, the group’s chief operating officer said Thursday.

“Picking fights with trading partners probably isn’t the best way to have expansion of the global trading system,” David Chavern said.

Competition with China, the world’s second-largest economy, has become a campaign issue as the candidates vow to protect U.S. jobs. In Ohio on Wednesday, Romney repeated his promise to label China a manipulator on his first day in office.

While the United States has declined to apply the designation, President Obama says his administration has lodged trade complaints against China at almost twice the rate of his predecessor.

“Gov. Romney shares the Chamber’s goal of expanding the global trading system,” Amanda Henneberg, spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, said in an email. “But such a system will only survive, and benefit American businesses and workers, if all participants play by the rules and face serious consequences for cheating.”

China has kept the value of its currency against the dollar artificially low and should move to a market-based rate, Chavern said.

“We also have to understand that that’s going to take time,” he said. “In terms of the China-bashing that everybody seems to love, we think has a long-term negative effect in terms of the debate.”

Romney’s vow also was questioned by the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives of major U.S. companies. President John Engler said calling China a manipulator is “very politically delicate,” citing sensitivities of China’s leaders.

Many U.S. corporations favor less confrontation as they seek access to China’s market. U.S. companies such as Apple and Wynn Resorts make a substantial share of their sales in China, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis.

Yum Brands runs more than 3,900 KFC and 690 Pizza Hut restaurants there. General Motors, including through joint ventures, sold more cars in China last year than it did in the U.S.