Interview: Forum a new way to strengthen U.S.-China ties

08:08, February 25, 2011      

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The China-U.S. Governors Forum, which will be formally established during a ceremony in Washington this weekend, will serve as a new platform to strengthen ties between the two countries, a senior U.S. diplomat says.

"This is an opportunity ... to begin the forum and to begin the formal relationship between the Friendship Association leaders and U.S. governors," Reta Jo Lewis, Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs at U.S. State Department, said Wednesday in an interview with Xinhua.

During Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States last month, the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding to agree on the creation of the forum by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) and the National Governors Association.

According to the memo of understanding, the forum will serve as an important communications platform between Chinese provincial and U.S. state governors in a bid to promote practical cooperation at the provincial level in areas such as trade, investment, energy, environment and culture.

"Over the last ten years, U.S. governors and Chinese provincial leaders, along with mayors and county officials, have all been engaged with one another in all phases," Lewis said, "This is just another way for us to say we continue to value those relationships... This is another way for both governments to support the work they are doing."

It has been years since American governors started reaching out to China individually. Official records show that in 2010 alone, at least eight governors have led trade delegations to China, while Chinese provincial leaders made more than 100 visits to the U.S. A total of 36 sister provinces and states have been established between the two countries.

"These are leaders who have commonalities in interests, and they face many of the same challenges," Lewis said.

The forum will serve as a new platform for these provincial and state leaders, Lewis said, "to get to know each other, to talk about the common challenges as well as the great opportunities."

Zhou Qiang, secretary of the Hunan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and Li Xiaolin, vice president of the CPAFFC, will lead the Chinese delegation attending the ceremony this weekend. They, together with NGA officials, will sign an agreement on formally establishing the forum.

Lewis said the U.S. and China are still working on the specifics of the new mechanism, and she hopes the sub-national exchanges will "go back and forth and continue to take place," in the U.S. and in China.

She also said the U.S. intends to invite more Chinese provincial leaders to attend the NGA summer meeting in Utah in July.

"The U.S.-China relationship is one of our most important bilateral relationships in the world. We want to make sure that we use as many opportunities to see our relationship with the Chinese government and its citizens be broadened and deepened," Lewis said.

Echoing what President Barack Obama has said in defining U.S.-China relationship, Lewis said "our bilateral relationship is positive, cooperative and comprehensive, which is built on mutual respect as well as reciprocity."

When announcing the memorandum of understanding concerning the creation of the forum, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "we have worked to extend mutual understanding and interests beyond national governments to individuals, businesses, and state and provincial governments."

"This agreement is a recognition by our governments that we want more cooperation on a sub-national level because the United States and China face many similar challenges and opportunities," the secretary added.

by Xinhua writers Du Jing, Wang Wei
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