WASHINGTON -- At high-level
economic talks that wrap up Wednesday, China is urging frustrated US officials
to be patient as the two powers work to manage a delicate trade relationship.
The United States, by contrast, is pushing for quick action.
Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi speaks
during the beginning of the US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue hosted by
US Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson (L) in Washington, May 22, 2007.
The talks began Tuesday and could yield some results, including increased US
airline flights to China and a lowering of barriers to sales of American energy
technology products in China.
Senior US officials have tamped down expectations of major breakthroughs,
however, as they described the meetings as strategic discussions, not
negotiating sessions. US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said the
twice-a-year talks are "all about the long-term; developing a common
understanding of the future."
Still, the US side made a point of noting simmering frustration. Treasury
Secretary Henry Paulson said Americans are by nature impatient people; Gutierrez
described the "need to make progress in all areas as soon as possible."
The urgency is reflected in an increasingly restive US Congress, where
lawmakers are considering a spate of bills that would impose economic sanctions
on China. Many blame America's soaring trade deficits and the loss of one in six
manufacturing jobs since 2000 in part on claims of Chinese currency manipulation
and copyright piracy.
In blunt words, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi cautioned the United States
against making accusations.
"We should not easily blame the other side for our own domestic problems," Wu
said through an interpreter. "Confrontation does no good at all to
Wu, known as a tough negotiator, said that both countries should "firmly
oppose trade protectionism." She warned that any effort to "politicize" the
economic relationship between the two nations would be "absolutely
Wu and her delegation were scheduled to meet privately this week with major
The US delegation raised the issue of food safety highlighted by such
incidents as the deaths of pets who had eaten pet food made with tainted wheat
gluten imported from China.
US Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, briefing reporters at the end of the first
day of talks, said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns had made a forceful
presentation to the Chinese about the concerns Americans have about food safety.
In response, she said, Chinese officials sought to assure the Americans that
they would fully investigate any problems discovered.
Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and four other senators urged the Bush
administration in a letter to get Chinese commitments to cooperate in
investigations into food safety, saying that the way China currently handles the
issue is unacceptable.
Paulson created the talks last year as a way to get the countries' top policy
makers together twice a year to work toward reduced trade tensions. The first
meeting was in Beijing last December.