CHICAGO — The latest round of the annual China-US high-level talks on trade and commerce ended on Dec 18 with both sides hailing the achievement of “important consensus and outcomes” as well as significant changes introduced into the decades-old mechanism.
The 2014 session of the China-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), also known as the 25th JCCT session, opened on Dec 16 in this US Midwest metropolis and co-chaired by Vice-Premier Wang Yang, and US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Trade Representative Michael Froman. US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack also attended.
It was the last major bilateral event in a year that marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of China-US diplomatic ties. It also came on the heels of US President Barack Obama’s Beijing tour in November, during which he and President Xi Jinping agreed to further push the building of a “new model of major-country relationship” between the world’s two largest economies.
“This JCCT session added a perfect finishing touch to this year’s development of China-US relations, and also laid a solid foundation for our bilateral economic and trade cooperation next year and in the long run,” Wang, who arrived in Chicago on Dec 16, told the American hosts during their initial talks.
He also expressed the belief that China and the United States have much more common interests than differences, and that their economic and trade cooperation will prosper as long as the two countries can “seek common ground while reserving differences” in the spirit of mutual respect, mutual understanding and mutual accommodation.
Sources with the Chinese delegation told Xinhua that during the session, the US side also repeatedly emphasized the significance of US-China cooperation for both economies and the world economy at large, and expressed its readiness to work with the Chinese side on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit to lift economic and trade ties to a new height.
DOZENS OF OUTCOMES
As usual, the JCCT session culminated on its last day, with the three co-chairs and all senior members of each delegation sitting in the same conference room holding candid discussions on a wide range of topics and, more importantly, reaching consensus or agreement on some of them.
At two separate press conferences held immediately after the conclusion of the “plenary meeting” on Dec 18, both the Chinese and Americans said there will be a “list of outcomes.” Sources told Xinhua that some of the details were still being worked out so the list might not be available until later this week.
But when key members of both teams emerged from behind closed doors and walked into the media room to brief the press, their looks and tones all indicated “success.”
“We have dozens of outcomes from this session,” Froman, who showed up along with Pritzker, told reporters.
“I can go on and on ... (about the issues and topics) that we’ve been able to discuss and reach agreement on with our Chinese counterparts,” said the top US trade negotiator after giving a nearly 10-minute briefing.
“We’ve had a very productive two days,” Pritzker said, “We have reason to be proud of what our team has achieved.”
During the Chinese delegation’s briefing, Assistant Minister of Commerce Zhang Xiangchen said the two sides “held in-depth discussions” on export control, intellectual property rights, two-way investment, competition policy, review and approval of drug and medical devices, services liberalization, agricultural and forest trade, and aviation cooperation.
According to Zhang, the US side promised to encourage and facilitate the exports of high technology items to China for civilian uses, and said it will also address Chinese concerns about civil aviation review, railroad unit exports, discrimination against law firms and practitioners, as well as certain fishing products exports.
Meanwhile, the Chinese side committed itself to accelerating and simplifying the review and approval process of drugs and medical devices imports, and also reiterated that it will treat all market entities equally in anti-monopoly enforcement. Both issues have been primary US concerns.
Other details revealed by the official include the opening of two-way apple trade in the 2014-15 export season, exchange of food safety inspectors, and continued anti-corruption, anti-bribery exchange and cooperation under multilateral frameworks.
NEW LOCATION, NEW PARTICIPANTS, NEW SPIRIT
Founded in 1983 as a primary intergovernmental platform to promote and facilitate bilateral trade and commerce, the JCCT has turned in a highly impressive performance report: Over the past three decades, US exports to China have increased more than 50 times, and China has become the second largest trading partner of the United States from the 22nd place.
Nevertheless, the two countries, committing themselves to “building a more dynamic and effective economic dialogue,” have found it necessary to “reimagine and reinvigorate” the JCCT mechanism so as to “unleash its full utility.”
On Dec 17, Wang called 2014 a “year of reform” for the JCCT.
So Chicago, the third largest US city that also leads the country in doing business with China and attracting Chinese investment, was chosen as a venue to host the current JCCT session. It was only the second time in history that the JCCT convened in a city other than Washington D.C. and Beijing. In 2011, China hosted the 22nd JCCT session in Chengdu, capital of the southwestern Sichuan province.
In an even bolder move of reform, both countries’ business leaders, especially those from the private sector, were invited to join the JCCT discussions this year, turning the traditional one-way talks into three-way -- government-to-government, government-to-business and business-to-business.
One extra day was added to the session agenda, but completely dedicated to events with business participation -- forums, roundtable and luncheon on investment, cooperation and some specific sectors. On Dec 17, the three co-chairs attended and addressed at least five such events.
“Yesterday we had the opportunity to hear from our respective private sectors, and today our goal was to keep their thoughts and insights in mind during our government-to-government dialogue. And I think we did just that,” Pritzker said.
“This is the 25th meeting of the JCCT, but it’s the first meeting of what we are calling the ‘reimagined’ JCCT,” she added, “There was a renewed spirit and effort in this year’s JCCT on both sides, and I look forward to continuing to improve this dialogue in the months and years to come.”