At the first round of their Comprehensive Economic Dialogue in Washington, China and the United States have vowed to work hard together to tackle their trade imbalance.
The trade gap has been a long-standing thorny issue troubling the world's most important bilateral relationship. A convenient theory among some Western economists and politicians is that China is to blame for its huge trade surplus with the United States, which stood at 347 billion U.S. dollars last year. But the issue is complicated and the blame game will not help.
For decades Washington has set numerous bans on Chinese imports of high-tech products from the United States on the grounds of "national security" concerns.
If the United States were to liberalize its export barriers against China to the same level as those applicable to Brazil or France, the U.S. trade deficit with China would narrow by up to 24 percent and 34 percent respectively, according to the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Globalization and the international division of labor is another key reason for the trade gap.
China has now become the final assembly plant for most of the goods manufactured in other East Asian economies and shipped to the United States. That means China is taking the blame simply because it is the last stop of the production line.
In services trade with China, the United States gained a surplus of 37.4 billion dollars in its favor last year, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Given the importance of trade between the world's two largest economies and top traders, the two sides should work to resolve the issue via negotiations instead of the threat of penalties.
China-U.S. trade and economic cooperation have brought tangible benefits to both countries and been a major contributor to global growth for a long time. That is the most compelling reason that earnest efforts should be made to keep the China-U.S. economic relationship on the right track.
Since the historic meeting between the top leaders of the two countries in Florida, economy officials of the two countries have maintained close communication and thanks to painstaking efforts of both sides, the 100-Day Plan launched at the Florida meeting has delivered major outcomes, including the resumption of U.S. beef exports to China.
It is hoped that decision-makers in Washington keep in mind the significance of China-U.S. economic ties and the fact that solving disputes via dialogue does pay off in the long run.