Turning The Other Cheek

If jaw-jaw is preferable to war-war, and it usually is, especially in trade and economic conflicts, the latest round of the China-U.S. talks under the aegis of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue just concluded in Washington can be deemed a success. The low pre-meeting expectations that nothing very much would be achieved were readily met, but the main point of the discussions is to get everyone around a table and the contentious issues on it. Taking them off is low on the agenda, if expressions of intent to do so is not.

That was the case with what is being touted as the main achievements of this round, improved market access for both sides. Beijing said it would disentangle policies designed to encourage domestic innovation from government procurement, a promise it has made before, and rewrite its procurement rules to be less discriminatory towards domestic firms. It also promised to look into making its occasional crackdowns on intellectual-property theft more permanent, and check officials weren’t using pirated software. As ever, proof of the pudding will be in the implementation.

In return, Beijing asked for more access to the American market for its companies, and particularly to relax Washington’s high-tech export controls, whose security reviews repeatedly snag proposed Chinese acquisitions in the U.S. It wants Washington to be more transparent about its whole process. Commerce secretary Chen Deming rather mischievously said “In this area, I regard the United States as my teacher and since my teacher is asking me to be open and transparent and fair, I certainly would also ask my teacher to do the same to me.”

Not so much jaw-jaw as cheek-cheek.

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Filed under China-U.S., Trade

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