Obama, Hu pledge expanded US-China trade relations at summit

19 January 2011 23:14  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US and China on Wednesday pledged to expand trade relations as a means of boosting both countries’ economies, with President Barack Obama saying that business ties between the two major nations are as important as diplomatic dialogue.

In the first full day of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s summit visit to the US, Hu and Obama met with a group of top-ranking US and Chinese business executives to emphasise the importance that both leaders place on trade ties.

At the midday White House meeting, Dow Chemical chairman Andrew Liveris and DuPont chief executive Ellen Kullman were seated to the right of Obama and Hu at the head table.

“President Hu and I have had some excellent discussions,” Obama told the executives and reporters.

“We very much believe that in order for the US-China relationship to deepen and to grow, that it can’t just be a matter of government-to-government contacts,” Obama said.

“There has been no sector of our societies that have been stronger proponents of US-China relations than the business sector,” Obama said, adding: “So I’m very pleased that we have some of America’s top businesses here.”

“They, I think, can testify to the benefits that the United States obtains from strong relations with China,” Obama said.

Obama noted that US exports to China were growing nearly twice as fast as US exports to the rest of the world, but he added that there was much room for improvement.

“It is important, I think, to note that even with China’s enormous population, the United States still does more trade with Europe than it does with China,” he said. 

“That gives an indication of the amount of progress that can be made if we are consulting with each other, if we are hearing specifically from businesses in terms of how we can ease some of the frictions that exist in our trading relationship," he added.

At a press conference following the meeting with business executives, Obama noted that some of the continuing frictions in trade relations between the US and China include China's spotty record on protecting intellectual property rights and its undervalued currency.

“The Chinese government has, to its credit, taken steps to better enforce intellectual property,” Obama said. “We’ve gotten further agreement as a consequence of this state visit. And I think President Hu would acknowledge that more needs to be done.”

On the Chinese currency issue, Obama said that Hu had indicated that he was committed to opening China’s monetary controls to a market-based approach, a tactic that Obama said would benefit both US export trade and domestic Chinese demand.

Hu noted that the US and China had greatly expanded diplomatic, business and cultural relations since the two nations restored direct ties in 1979.

“In 1979, when we firmly established diplomatic ties, our two-way trade was less than $2.5bn [€1.88bn],” Hu said. “But the figure for last year was $380bn, which is more than a 150-fold increase.”

Hu said that he and Obama had agreed to “strengthen our cooperation in the financial, economic, trade, environment, science, technology, agriculture, infrastructure and many other fields”.

“I also have a message for American entrepreneurs,” Hu said. “That is, we welcome you as companies to China. China follows reform and opening up.We will, as always, try to provide a transparent, just, fair, highly-efficient investment climate for US companies and other foreign companies.”

Hu and his wife were to join Obama and his wife on Wednesday evening for a formal state dinner at the White House.

($1 = €0.75)

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