SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- If Treasury Secretary John Snow is any indication, the Bush administration is trying to walk some fine lines on foreign trade. In the cases of both the trade deficit with China and the recent brouhaha over a deal that would put several U.S. ports under the management of a United Arab Emirates-based company, Snow appeared to be trying to address the concerns of domestic critics without appearing altogether protectionist. "One of the strengths of America is our commitment to open markets," Snow said, following a meeting here with TechNet, a high- tech industry lobbying group. Referring specifically to the scrutiny being given to the ports deal, he added, "It's awfully important that we come out in the right way on this matter." On China, Snow praised the country for taking "important steps" toward permitting more "flexibility" in the exchange rate between the country's yuan currency and the dollar, but said it needs to go further. Snow acknowledged that China has full authority to decide how the yuan should be valued and that the country can't move to allowing the yuan to freely float against the dollar "immediately." But he urged the country to carry through on its commitment to allow the yuan to trade more freely against the dollar. "Our belief is that it's in China's best interests" to do so, he said. With the U.S. trade deficit with China soaring, some critics of the administration's policies have engaged in a round of China-bashing. In the Senate, there have been recent calls to suspend normal trade relations with China. And critics of the U.S. relationship with China helped submarine Chinese oil company CNOOC's proposed purchase of Unocal last year. Instead of joining that chorus, the administration has tried to address the issue largely through pressuring China on the yuan valuation -- the thinking being that the yuan is trading at an artificially low level vs. the dollar.