China and the US yesterday completed their last high-level economic meeting under the administration of US President George W. Bush, with pledges of US$20 billion in trade financing to boost commerce in a time of crisis.
But amid vows to cooperate on the worst global storm in decades, it was unclear if the Strategic Economic Dialogue would continue after president-elect Barack Obama assumes office next month.
“With regard to the financial crisis, the two sides worked together very well through this process,” said US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who headed the US delegation at the talks.
“We are really focused on stabilizing the [financial] system and protecting investment,” he told reporters.
Freeing up trade to boost weakening global growth was one of the main themes in the meetings at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in western Beijing.
“Both sides believe that in the face of the growing challenges posed by the crisis, we must fully oppose all forms of protectionism,” Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan (王岐山), the head of the Chinese team, told reporters.
“We stand ready to work actively with other countries in the world to promote the early resumption of the WTO Doha round of negotiations so as to ... promote prosperity and growth of the world economy and trade,” he said.
The last round of Doha trade talks collapsed in July when the US and India clashed over measures to protect poor farmers against import surges.
Paulson said earlier yesterday that the US and China would make US$20 billion available in trade financing to boost commerce amid the global slowdown.
“To support trade flows during this period of financial turmoil the US and China announced today that our two export-import banks will make available an additional US$20 billion for trade finance, particularly for creditworthy importers in developing economies,” he said.
China’s ability to maintain domestic growth, and help lift the global economy in this manner, was also a major topic during the discussions.
“If there is a big economic crisis in China, the confidence of the global economy will be hurt,” the People’s Daily said in an editorial in its overseas edition.
“In this situation, the fact that China and the United States sit down and exchange views ... not only benefits the two countries, but benefits all countries in the world,” it said.
But amid the pledges to support the world economy, an eternal bone of contention — the value of the Chinese yuan — again moved up the agenda.
“While recognizing that currency movements will be uneven over shorter periods, the United States encouraged China to continue, and accelerate, [yuan] appreciation and flexibility,” the US side said in a statement.
Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming (陳德銘) said on Thursday he believed the yuan would remain stable “if there’s no major change to the overall international economic environment, and if everybody continues to work together.”
The Strategic Economic Dialogue has taken place since 2006 and is the highest-level forum for exchange between economic policymakers of the two nations.
This round is the last under the Bush administration. His successor, Barack Obama, has not indicated whether the talks will continue on his watch.
“We look forward to continuing this candid and pragmatic dialogue with a new administration in the United States,” Wang told the briefing yesterday.