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Lawmakers urge trade action vs. China, others

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of Democratic lawmakers urged President Barack Obama on Friday to take immediate action to resolve a long list of trade disputes with China, the European Union and other countries.

"A reciprocal trade strategy must also include targeted action to eliminate the most persistent and egregious barriers," the group from the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee said.

"Specifically, it will be difficult to meet the goal of doubling exports in five years if China, poised to become the second largest economy in the world, continues with its current exchange rate policy," they said.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office is due to release its annual report on foreign trade barriers on Wednesday.

It is expected to include an increased focus on foreign standards the United States believes are not based on sound science or otherwise unfairly block U.S. farm and manufactured goods exports in violation of global trade rules.

Obama has come under increased pressure to take action against China on its currency policy.

Economists estimate China's yuan is undervalued by up to 40 percent, giving Chinese companies an unfair advantage in international trade.

However, no country has ever challenged another country's currency policy at the World Trade Organization and it is unclear how such a case would be decided.

The lawmakers expressed frustration that many of the concerns expected in next week's trade barriers report "have been persistent and long-standing problems for U.S. exporters, investors and service providers."

"These barriers often reflect previous failures to take vigorous action to enforce U.S. trade rights. No longer can our country afford to operate under this "hands-off" approach to trade," Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin and fellow Democrats said in the letter.

In addition to China's currency practices, "other major barriers to U.S. exports remain, such as restrictions on U.S. pork, chicken and beef imports that are not based on science, unfair competition in Japan's insurance market, and a series of barriers facing the U.S. automobile industry in key foreign markets," the lawmakers said.

"If these significant trade issues cannot be resolved on an expedited basis, we urge USTR to take appropriate action, whether under WTO rules, U.S. law, in bilateral negotiations, or a combination of these approaches," they said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Vicki Allen)