China-U.S. economic relations on positive track: experts

Updated 2017-09-15 11:00:36 Global Times

The upcoming visit of U.S. President Donald Trump will help yield positive results in Sino-U.S. bilateral economic ties, experts forecast on Thursday.

Trump is expected to pay a state visit to China this year, Geng Shuang, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said during a press conference on Wednesday.

During Trump's visit, the two leaders will discuss long-term plans and the basis of China-U.S. relations, He Weiwen, an executive council member at the China Society for the WTO, told the Global Times on Thursday. "Trump will bring up some urgent issues, such as the Korean Peninsula crisis. But in terms of the economy, the talks will center on trade, investment and global economic growth," He said.

A key priority for Xi and Trump will be to further strengthen China-U.S. strategic cooperation and to come up with a plan to bring North Korea back to peaceful dialogue and reduce military tensions in the Korean Peninsula, Rajiv Biswas, chief economist for IHS Markit Asia-Pacific, told the Global Times on Thursday.

However, the U.S. government should realize that playing the North Korea card to put pressure on China over trade issues would be useless, He Weiwen noted. "The U.S. holds the key to solving the Korean Peninsula crisis, not China," he said. He also suggested that the two sides should keep trade issues separate from geopolitical ones.

The U.S. has long had a trade deficit with China, and rebalancing bilateral trade relations has been one focus of the Trump administration.

The U.S.' exports to China recorded 5.6 billion in 2016 while it imported 2.6 billion worth of goods from China, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, resulting in a trade deficit of 7 billion.

"China has never sought a trade surplus with the U.S. The current situation is completely market-driven," Gao Feng, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, told a press briefing on Thursday.

From January to August, China imported 0.4 billion worth of goods from the U.S., up 20.1 percent year-on-year, Gao noted. The growth rate was much higher than that of the overall bilateral trade volume or China's exports to the U.S.

The upcoming visit of Trump to China will be an important opportunity to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation and improve understanding on a wide range of trade issues, Biswas noted.

Common ground

The meeting between Xi and Trump in the U.S. in April set a good example for China-U.S. dialogue, and the 100-day trade plan could be further extended, Diao Daming, an assistant research fellow at the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. Under the plan, China has allowed more market access to the U.S. in sectors such as finance, agriculture and energy.

"China may have a trade surplus with the U.S., but the U.S. gains most of the benefits," Diao said, noting that U.S. companies operating in China have gained growing profits, and some of them have played an active role in promoting stable China-U.S. relations.

Some trade frictions exist in sectors such as steel and rubber, but this will not change the fundamentals of bilateral trade and investment, Diao said.

"The upcoming visit will also shed light on emerging sectors such as high tech, cyber security and intellectual property rights," he remarked.

China's rapid growth in technology has generated increasing benefits for domestic companies, which may become strong competitors for their U.S. counterparts. "This is what the U.S. government is really afraid of," Diao noted.

More open market

An important focus for the two leaders will be to strengthen their commitment to liberalize trade in more goods and services under bilateral trade agreements, noted Biswas.

"Key areas where the U.S. may be able to gain more access to the fast-growing Chinese consumer market are in agricultural commodities and processed foods, as well as in financial services," he said.

"But the U.S. should realize that it will be more and more difficult to grant foreign investors super-national treatment as China pursues economic reforms and sees rising labor costs," he noted.

Still, experts forecast that talks on the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) may not gain pace despite Trump's visit. "The major obstacle to BIT negotiations comes from the U.S. Congress," Diao noted.

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