U.S.,China Talks Focus On Future
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The United States and China have ended some high-level talks with friendly words and blunt advice. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner hosted their Chinese counterparts for what they called a strategic and economic dialogue. The governments promised to work together on climate change and the global financial crisis. They also challenged each other to make difficult reforms. NPR's Tom Gjelten has more.
TOM GJELTEN: These U.S.-China dialogues were instituted a few years ago by Henry Paulson, George Bush's Treasury secretary. Under the Obama administration they've been upgraded and now involve the top foreign policy officials as well as the finance experts.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said afterwards that the meetings were the largest gathering ever of top leaders from the two countries. The streets around the meeting site for two days were lined with big black limousines with diplomatic plates.
Secretary Clinton's counterpart, State Councilor Dai Bingguo, speaking through an interpreter, seemed a bit overwhelmed by the scope of the meetings.
State Councilor DAI BINGGUO (China): (Through translator) It was not easy. There is such a great number of participants. We talked about so many topics. And such a huge number of government departments and ministries were involved.
GJELTEN: The two governments signed an agreement promising cooperation on climate change, though their commitments were vague. They promised, as well, to work together for global economic recovery. In this case, though, each government seemed most eager to spell out what the other one should do.
The Chinese delegation made a point of saying the U.S. representatives had promised to monitor their government spending, quote, "to ensure that they are able to meet their financial obligations," unquote. A huge U.S. budget deficit could undermine the value of the Chinese investment in U.S. Treasury bonds. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the U.S. side had indeed made that commitment. But he then laid out what the U.S. expects of China.
Secretary TIMOTHY GEITHNER (Department of the Treasury): As we move to raise private savings in the United States, as we move to bring down our fiscal deficits in the future, we need to see actions in China and in other countries to shift the source of growth more to domestic demand.
GJELTEN: U.S. officials say that by basing its economy so heavily on exports China makes it hard to bring trade between the two nations into balance.
Some tension between the two countries was evident over the issue of how to deal with North Korea. The United States wants more Chinese help in the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea. But the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya, through an interpreter, said his government would not approve punishing North Korea on the basis of what he called inaccurate information.
Vice Foreign Minister WANG GUANGYA (China): (Through translator) In implementing Security Council resolutions, we have to be both serious and very responsible. We need adequate evidence in carrying out sanctions.
GJELTEN: In her closing remarks yesterday, Secretary of State Clinton said she was heartened just by the positive tone of the U.S.-China meetings.
Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): Laying this groundwork may not deliver a lot of concrete achievements immediately, but every step on this path to create confidence and understanding is a very good investment. So what I've learned is that this strategic and economic dialogue holds great promise.
GJELTEN: But movement on this path will be slow. While the Bush administration scheduled its U.S.-China meetings every six months, this new dialogue model calls for meetings just once a year.
Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.
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