Sarkozy Wants "Equitable and Fair" Currency Rates

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will in a forthcoming visit to China call for an "equitable and fair" relationship between four major currencies -- the dollar, euro, yen and yuan, a senior French official said on Thursday.


Sarkozy's public comments on the visit this weekend are likely to be low-key, coming shortly before a planned visit to China by top European monetary officials but the French leader is expected to deliver a firm message on currencies in private, the official, who declined to be identified, said.

"He will say very frankly that there should be a more equitable and fair relationship between these four currencies. France is no longer alone on this, all the Europeans think the same and are starting to say so," he said.

"He will have basically the same message as (European Central Bank President Jean-Claude) Trichet but perhaps in slightly different words," he said.

Sarkozy's spokesman, David Martinon, said in a separate press conference that the French president would meet Trichet on Thursday and discuss economic and financial issues.

"The president finds it important to be able to discuss developments with Mr Trichet before his visit to China, where these issues will be discussed. All the more so because Mr Trichet will go to Beijing himself after the president to meet the Chinese authorities," Martinon said.

Pressure Mounts

The comments from the official came as the euro hovered near a record high of more than $1.48 and they echo growing concern among European policy makers about its seemingly unstoppable rise.

The currency question will be one of the key issues at an EU-China summit meeting next week.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in Singapore that the strength of the euro was becoming a problem for European exporters and Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said Beijing had to take firm action.

"During the six days that I will be spending in China, our trade deficit is going to grow by an addition of 2 billion euros. That is unacceptable, it is unsustainable," Mandelson told reporters at the sidelines of an EU-ASEAN summit in Singapore.

"I don't think Europe's sincerity in dialogue and sufficiently reciprocated by that of the Chinese authorities," he said.

"There is going to be some hard talking when we are in Beijing, but I hope that some firm actions, some remedies, will follow our hard talking."

Sarkozy has been unremitting in his calls for policy makers to take stronger steps to prevent the soaring euro rising further and unbalancing world currencies.

On a visit to Washington earlier this month, he warned of the risk that disarray in currency markets could lead to "economic war."