America and China are meeting for their first official summit meeting since last year’s spat over the South China Sea.
As with any summit, the discussion is likely to focus on the challenges the two countries face in different areas, both in terms of their economic development and how to manage ties across regional regions and even the international stage.
There is a lot at stake for both sides, and for the first time in several years American officials, under Trump’s presidency, will see Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang – two of the most important leaders in China – sitting down together in Washington.
A 2015 US government communique declared that bilateral trade between the two countries, which at the time was valued at $480bn, was “inconceivable” without the US leadership and assistance.
This will be one of the most important discussions for US and Chinese relations for decades
The bilateral trade was already one of the largest in the world – but the 2015 communique highlighted how challenges caused by illegal practices, particularly in technology and intellectual property protection, resulted in the bilateral relationship “at a crossroads”.
There are currently more than 40 trade cases filed by the US with China. According to a Bloomberg report, China has an additional 160 active complaints against it.
The latest Washington-Beijing talks on economic and trade issues came as both sides restate commitments they have made since 2015, in addition to unveiling a wide range of new economic and trade commitments between the two countries.
The pledges also involved trade in goods, services, commodities and investment, focusing particularly on the strategic region of Asia-Pacific.
“The United States remains committed to vigorously advancing its own economic agenda of free, fair, and reciprocal trade,” said Trump in a statement accompanying the announcement.
“At the same time, the United States remains committed to building a wider economic forum that holds each side accountable for respect for international norms, rules, and practices.
“In this regard, President Xi and I announced today that our two countries will host an international forum of businesses, investors, academics, government leaders, and civil society that will work with countries in the Asia-Pacific to improve mutual understanding and foster cooperation between them.
“Our call for the forum, ‘China-US Innovation Forum for Exchange and Dialogue on Intellectual Property Rights’, is to provide a forum for our two countries to exchange information and promote cooperation on IP rights, security, and the benefits of IP-based innovation, to encourage mutual respect and understanding of intellectual property rights, and to support China’s efforts to promote IP-based innovation.”
Jin Liqun, who leads Xi’s office and also acts as the head of the Communist party’s International Liaison Office, said the trade rules put in place between the two nations and the interest in growing bilateral trade and economic exchanges will guide the development of China-US relations for the future.
Trade protectionism is gathering pace in both the European Union and the US, and China has long been accused of using its trading relationships to benefit its own companies at the expense of competitors. Many Americans also accuse Beijing of using trade barriers to secure resources and technology at the expense of other nations.
It is unclear if any of this will be discussed at this week’s official meeting, which will be limited to a one-day summit.
But there will be plenty to talk about in the conversations between the two leaders, such as how to manage the financial sector, tax policy, climate change, improving and increasing US exports to China, and trade solutions for the supply chains.