Obama's China trip fuels fresh hope

08:42, November 11, 2009      

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Senior Chinese and United States officials are upbeat about next week's visit by US President Barack Obama, suggesting that the prospects for beefing up collaboration and constraining long-standing disputes between the countries are good.

The Foreign Ministry said yesterday it hopes Obama's China trip will reap real rewards.

Citing the positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship Obama and President Hu Jintao pledged to build between the nations when they met earlier this year, spokesman Qin Gang said at a press conference that China hopes the countries will continue to develop their relationship.

Qin also called on the US to properly handle bilateral trade problems, an issue that has flared recently with both sides imposing a series of anti-dumping cases against each other.

"Compared to the huge common interests and benefits brought about by bilateral trade, the problems in trade relations are secondary," said Qin.

He said the nations should negotiate on an equal basis and oppose trade and investment protectionism in any form.

Robert Hormats, undersecretary for economic, energy and agricultural affairs with the US State Department, struck a similar tone.

He said in Beijing yesterday that both the US and China will "do what we can" to avoid a trade war.

He said tension between countries with close trade ties is inevitable and added that "many of these things can be negotiated before they get to the WTO stage".

With such a massive amount of trade between the two countries, Hormats said a trade war is something neither nation wants. He also stressed that both China and the US want to cooperate on climate change and energy use, subjects on Obama's China agenda.

Obama is scheduled to visit China from Nov 15 to 18 during his maiden Asian tour as president.

His time in China, which will fill about half of his weeklong Asian timetable, will include discussions with President Hu Jintao on a wide range of issues.

China a vital partner

Obama stressed during an interview with Reuters on Monday that he sees China as a vital partner, as well as a competitor.

Obama said the world's two most powerful nations need to work together on the big issues, and any competition between them has to be fair and friendly.

"On critical issues, whether climate change, economic recovery, nuclear nonproliferation, it is very hard to see how we succeed or China succeeds in our respective goals, without working together," he said.

While saying currency issues and trade will be at the center of his visit, Obama stressed that it is important "as we enter into these discussions that we are looking at all the issues involved and not just one".

Obama will be the first US president to pay a state visit to China for almost 12 years. Bill Clinton made a state visit in 1998.

Analysts said the leaders will likely ink several agreements against the backdrop of the global economic slump and increasing security threats.

"I can give you a long list of common interests between the two nations, ranging from economy to security, from concerns over financial turbulence across the Pacific to nuclear problems in Iran and on the Korean Peninsula," said Pang Zhongying, an international expert at Renmin University of China.

"And the list is increasing every day. That's why we are expecting a rich consensus to be reached, though possibly not in the form of signed documents, during Obama's visit."

But despite much common ground, analysts warned there will be no quick fix for long-standing disputes between the countries.

In response to the Reuters report that said Obama planned to put currency and trade at the center of the agenda, Qin Gang pointed out that China's policy toward its currency would be "proactive, controllable and gradual".

"China will not make a single step backward on the currency issue," said Zhou Shijian, a senior analyst at the Sino-US Relations Research Center of Tsinghua University.

Chinese exports fell by 21.3 percent during the first nine months of the year compared to the same period last year. That slump was caused in part by problems with the value of the US dollar.

"It is time for a currency to appreciate, not depreciate," said Zhou.

Source:China Daily
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