US President Barack Obama declared a new era of “cooperation, not confrontation” with China on Monday, even though two days of high-level talks were not expected to resolve differences over the two nations’ yawning trade gap and China’s unease over soaring US budget deficits.
The Obama administration pledged to take control of the deficits once the economic crisis is resolved. It also pressed China to reshape its economy to rely more on domestic demand and less on exports that drive up the US trade deficit.
Chinese Assistant Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao (朱光耀), briefing reporters after Monday’s meetings, said the US and Chinese sides had “profound exchanges” on the recovery of the US economy.
“We sincerely hope the US fiscal deficit will be reduced, year after year,” Zhu said, speaking through an interpreter, after being asked if China was worried about US recovery.
The discussions in Washington represent the continuation of a dialogue begun by the administration of former US president George W. Bush that focused on economic tensions between the two nations. Obama chose to expand the talks to include foreign policy issues as well as economic disputes.
Top officials from both countries have called the relationship crucial to solving many of the world’s crises. The Obama administration hopes the talks can set the groundwork for cooperation on climate change, lifting the world economy out of turmoil and addressing nuclear standoffs with North Korea and Iran.
Both sides sought to underscore the importance of the revamped Strategic and Economic Dialogue, with Obama delivering a major policy address to welcome a sizable Chinese delegation of 150 diplomats.
“I believe that we are poised to make steady progress on some of the most important issues of our times,” Obama told officials from both countries assembled in the Ronald Reagan Building.
“The relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world,” Obama said.
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan (王岐山) said his country’s attempts to create a more open economy would help US recovery efforts.
“With the furthering of China’s reform and opening up, China and the United States will have even closer economic cooperation and trade relations and [the] China-US relationship will surely keep moving forward,” Wang said, speaking through an interpreter.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner were leading the US team. The Chinese delegation was led by Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo (戴秉國) and Wang.
Geithner and Wang both spoke of hopeful signs that the global economy was beginning to emerge from its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Geithner said the stimulus packages put together by Beijing and Washington had made a substantial contribution to fighting the global downturn and represented a milestone in economic cooperation between the two nations.
The US accounts for about 22 percent of global output, and China about 7 percent. The combined impact of the massive stimulus programs should make a difference, economists said, in cushioning a recession that appears to be bottoming out in the US and some other countries.
Geithner traveled to Beijing last month to assure Chinese officials that federal budget deficits, which have ballooned because of government efforts to deal with the recession and stabilize the financial system, would be reined in once those crises have passed.