Trade and economic issues topped the diplomatic agenda as China’s new President Xi Jinping met US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in Beijing.
The list included currencies, Europe and the global economy, intellectual property rights, cyber-security and North Korea.
In public, as the two spoke before reporters before the start of the formal meeting, the emphasis was on cooperation. XI talked about the two countries enormous shared interests, but added “of course unavoidably we have some differences”.
Lew said both countries had a responsibility to promote global growth: “We also need to continue to work together to reduce barriers to trade and investment between our two countries, because greater trade and investment will be good for both of our economies.”
The US is eager for China to move away from growth driven by exports and investment and toward a more consumer-based economy, thereby creating a bigger Chinese market for foreign goods.
On investment, US companies face barriers to invest in around 100 Chinese sectors, while Beijing has complained the United States blocks Chinese investments on unjust national security grounds.
Washington also continues to push for China’s currency to be allowed to rise in value against the dollar as currently the weaker yuan gives it a trade advantage.
China’s official Xinhua news agency in a commentary – which are not policy statements but typically reflect government thinking – said Lew should use his visit to convince Beijing that Washington would solve its debt problems, stabilise the value of the dollar and honour trade treaty commitments.
“The stakes are high,” the commentary said, striking a more hawkish tone than Xi did in his comments.