U.S. Seeks Specific Results from High-Level Talks with China

Washington – Describing Americans as an “impatient” people, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says  the ongoing high-level talks between the United States and China must create both actions and a “road map” for the future of the bilateral relationship.

The two countries must identify major future issues and simultaneously address immediate concerns such as growing protectionism, he said in an opening statement to the second round of the bilateral Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED).

“It is up to us … to show that words are precursors to action,” Paulson said.

At the May 22-23 sessions in Washington, the two sides are expected to discuss financial services, sustainable energy, the protection of intellectual property and exchange rate policies.

Paulson said near-term agreements on some of these issues are necessary to build confidence on both sides as China’s impact on the global economy rapidly grows and skeptics in both countries question the benefits of trade and globalization.

“There is a growing skepticism in each country about the other’s intentions,” he said.

In the United States, Paulson said, China has become a “symbol of the real and imagined downside of global competition,” a sentiment fueled by persistent trade and financial imbalances.

Some U.S.  lawmakers have expressed frustration with the pace of Chinese reforms and what they see as an insufficient commitment to address U.S. concerns. They have threatened to place trade restrictions on Chinese imports unless Beijing allows a more meaningful appreciation of the Chinese currency and fights intellectual property piracy more aggressively.

Earlier in the year, Paulson said the United States should address its huge bilateral trade deficit with China, which exceeded $230 billion in 2006, by increasing its exports rather then restricting imports from China.

China’s vice premier, Wu Yi, who leads the Chinese delegation, said the two countries should find their own ways of dealing with economic problems and help each other to address bilateral issues through cooperation.

“We are willing to take effective measures together with the U.S. side to address bilateral trade imbalances,” she said in her opening statement. Increasing imports is one of these measures, she added.

Representatives of Chinese companies were expected to sign more than $20 billion in trade deals with U.S. firms in May, according to a Chinese trade official.

However, Wu warned against “blaming each other for … own domestic economic problems.”

Paulson suggested that protectionist arguments in the United States and China may be different, but the potential threat to both economies stemming from protectionism is similar.

“The purpose of this on-going dialogue is to have candid discussions and find ways to ease, rather than increase, these tensions,” he said.

Paulson said the United States is not afraid of competition from China and supports its continuing efforts to open its economy.

He said past experience indicates that increasing bilateral ties has benefited both countries.

Alan Holmer, Treasury’s special envoy to China, said he believed the two countries will make progress through the SED.

“The United States and China both recognize that markets open to trade and investment are critical to sustainable economic growth,” he told USINFO a few days ahead of the meeting. (See related article.)

The full text of Paulson’s statement can be viewed on the Treasury Department Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see The United States and China.