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US Fixation on Yuan 'Old', Let's Talk Market Access: Stephen Roach

The U.S. fixation on China's currency is "old" and it is time the debate moved on to more important issues such as trade and market access, said Stephen Roach, the former Non-Executive Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia.

Stephen Roach, senior executive with Morgan Stanley
ChinaFotoPress | Getty Images
Stephen Roach, senior executive with Morgan Stanley

The argument over the value of the yuanreflects the old structure of China as a "powerful export machine" and U.S. as a consumer of those exports, said Roach, now a Senior Fellow at Yale University's Jackson Institute of Global Affairs.

This is no longer the case and the two nations should push for the opening of markets as both seek new ways to grow their economies, Roach told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.

While China is moving to become a consumer-led economy, the opposite is happening in the U.S. where the consumer is on ice and the country is looking for a new source of growth, Roach added.

"So we need to look at a different agenda here. America is really good at competing if it has access to external markets. The Chinese have enormous appetite for technology, for innovation and goods made in America and I think we need to have a chance to make sure that we crack those markets open," he said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who is in Beijing with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for annual talks said Thursday that both countries must compete on a level playing field in order for global trade to thrive while also reiterating calls for a stronger yuan.

But the yuan issue, says Alistair Thornton, China Economist at IHS Global Insight, is "less of an argument" now.

"The U.S. has less of a leg to stand on," Thornton told CNBC Asia's "The Call". "The trade surplus has come down considerably. There's clearly a lot less pressure on appreciation, and they just widened the band."

The Chinese government in mid-April widened the daily trading band of the yuan from 0.5 percent to 1 percent, and China's trade surplus narrowed to 2 percent of gross domestic product last year from 3.1 percent in 2010.

According to Roach as China rebalances its economy it provides new growth opportunities for the U.S., which should see China for what it's going to look like over the next 30 years and help it achieve that rebalancing by providing goods and services. "I think it fits the U.S. and its attributes and skills very, very closely."

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