WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday China has been hurting the United States by manipulating its currency to help its exports, but he stopped short of backing a bill in Congress that could punish Beijing.
"China has been very aggressive in gaming the trading system to its advantage and to the disadvantage of other countries, particularly the United States," Obama told a news conference.
"Currency manipulation is one example of it," he said.
Obama said it was important that trade partners play by the same rules, but he appeared wary about a proposal in Congress to place tariffs on imports from countries with deliberately undervalued currencies.
"I don't want a situation where we're just passing laws that are symbolic, knowing that they're probably not going to be upheld by the World Trade Organization," Obama said.
The bill, which Democratic Senator Charles Schumer helped to write, narrowly cleared a Senate procedural vote on Thursday and a formal vote was expected later in the day. It would face stronger opposition in the House of Representatives.
"My main concern, and I've expressed this to Senator Schumer, is that whatever tools we put in place let's make sure that these are tools that can actually work, that they're consistent with our international treaties and obligations," Obama said.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; editing by Mohammad Zargham)