China and the US put trade and economic issues at the top of their diplomatic agenda as chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) met US Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew yesterday and called for the two sides to focus on shared interests.
The two men stuck resolutely to diplomatic niceties in front of the watching media ahead of what was for both the first major international meeting since taking their respective offices.
A US official said in an e-mailed statement that the meeting itself was a 45-minute strategic-level discussion of the major issues on the bilateral agenda including currencies, Europe and the global economy, intellectual property, cybersecurity and North Korea, in which Lew was “candid and direct.”
The Xinhua news agency in a commentary said Lew should use his visit to convince Beijing that Washington would solve its debt problems, stabilize the US dollar and honor trade treaty commitments.
“I can say we have a seamless connection,” China’s new president said. “In the China-US relationship, we have enormous shared interests, but of course unavoidably we have some differences.”
Lew said both countries had a duty to promote global growth and urged China to boost domestic demand to help global rebalancing.
“The [US] President [Barack Obama] is firmly committed to building a relationship of growing strength where we cooperate on issues of economic and strategic importance, understanding that we will each have to meet our own responsibilities, but we’ll also have to manage our differences,” he said.
Both Xi and Lew agreed on the important role of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue — due to take place in the US this year — in cooperation and making progress, the US official’s e-mail said.
Trade is clearly an area of both cooperation and rivalry for the world’s two biggest economies, as the Chiense Ministry of Commerce reinforced at a separate event, saying it would accelerate trade talks with key trading partners as US efforts to seal its own trans-pacific free-trade deal gather pace.
China will hold three rounds of trade negotiations with Japan and South Korea this year and step up talks with other trading partners, the ministry said.
The talks are seen by analysts as a two-pronged initiative by Beijing to engage with Japan after recent diplomatic tension over disputed islands in the East China Sea, while also countering the “pivot” by the US to reaffirm its role in Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week said that Tokyo would seek to join the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership talks that currently bring together the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore.
Bringing the world’s third-largest economy into the negotiations would set the stage for a final agreement covering nearly 40 percent of world’s economic output, but could also isolate China in the process.
Also yesterday, Lew was to meet Chinese National and Development Reform Commission Chairman Xu Shaoshi (徐紹史) and Chinese Minister of Finance Lou Jiwei (樓繼偉).