The US will press senior Chinese officials this week for action on longstanding trade problems, and may face a rebuke from Beijing over the haphazard way it is managing its finances.
A delegation led by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan (王岐山) will be in Washington today and tomorrow for talks with US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, acting US Commerce secretary Rebecca Blank and US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
“I don’t think we should be expecting sweeping changes, but I do think we will see tangible progress on some specific issues,” US-China Business Council president John Frisbie said. “China is definitely prioritizing its US relations and they are also discussing economic reforms back at home that could impact some of the issues that matter to US companies.”
Kirk and his colleagues have said they are pushing China to drop restrictions on US livestock and farm products, to take stronger action to stop counterfeiting and piracy of US goods and to reduce pressure on US companies to transfer valuable technology to do business in China.
Wang in turn is expected to convey Beijing’s strong interest in a deal in Washington to avoid the US$600 billion in spending cuts and tax hikes set to take hold at the start of the year, widely known as the “fiscal cliff.”
Economists warn that failure to avert that outcome could send the US back in recession, which would threaten growth in China and around the world.
US President Barack Obama and Republican leaders have so far made little visible progress toward a deal.
Given that China is the US’ largest creditor, it has a deep interest in Washington’s management of its budget.
Chinese officials are also expected to press on a range of other issues — from concerns about US anti-dumping measures on their exports, to restrictions on China’s ability to import US high-technology products and the often strong political resistance to Chinese investment in the US.
The annual US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) meeting comes during a transition for both governments.
Obama is expected to bring in a new economic team for his second term. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) took helm of the Chinese Communist Party last month and will take over as head of state in March at the annual parliament meeting.
This week’s JCCT meeting could mark the start of the Xi era in US-China relations, but there remains a lot of uncertainty about how much reform the new Chinese administration will pursue, Frisbie said.
One US business official, speaking on condition he not be identified, said he was hoping for progress on troublesome “indigenous innovation” policies that put pressure on US companies that want to do business in China to transfer technology to Chinese partners.
US companies are also increasingly concerned about Chinese cyberattacks and other attempts to steal trade secrets, he said.