Although no breakthroughs were announced after the first Comprehensive Economic Dialogue between China and the United States, both sides displayed a strong political will to continue to work together and build on the “significant progress” that they had achieved in their preceding talks for the 100-day economic plan. Some clearly feel disappointed that Wednesday’s high-level discussions in Washington did not produce any major outcomes, and such sentiments seem to be fueling a media backlash against China in the US.
Although even before the dialogue began, some US officials and media voiced criticism of China, alleging that it alone is responsible for the problems in Sino-US trade, especially the colossal trade deficit that is in China’s favor.
However, such finger-pointing is both unwarranted and counterproductive — China has not single-handedly created the trade surplus.
To address their trade imbalance, the two sides need to continue to work together to find mutually acceptable solutions. Actions that only benefit one side will exacerbate the problems.
As long as the two sides keep having frank exchanges, there will be more possibility of the pair gradually bridging their differences and agreeing on ways to achieve their shared objectives of balance and fairness in their trade relations.
As Vice-Premier Wang Yang rightfully pointed out during the dialogue, the two countries are each other’s major trading partner and important source of investment, so cooperation is their only realistic choice.
This has been demonstrated by their respective negotiating teams that have been working on the 100-day economic action plan agreed at the first summit between the leaders of the two countries in April, whose discussions have proved fruitful, both in producing practical outcomes and forging rapport.
There is every reason for the two sides to continue to build on the good momentum that has been attained in these consultations.
In this respect, it is encouraging that the two sides agreed to initiate a one-year action plan for economic cooperation.
Such a down-to-earth approach will guarantee more industry specific moves, which as they accumulate will usher in a healthier bilateral trade structure.
The Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, though not the cure some had hoped for, has reinforced that talks are the right way to remedy the ills in trade relations between the world’s two largest economies.
Despite the talks not producing a magic wand with which to immediately make all the differences between the two sides disappear, they have reinforced the shared recognition that their discussions are helping to generate the necessary convergences with which to move forward, and they will continue to produce tangible results.