Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

China, US should make new gains

By David Shambaugh (China Daily) Updated: 2015-01-07 07:45

China, US should make new gains

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with US President Barack Obama during the APEC Welcome Banquet at the Beijing National Aquatics Center, or the Water Cube, in Beijing on Nov 10, 2014. Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters

After several years of drift and decline, relations between China and the United States ended 2014 in a modestly improved condition. The presidential summit in Beijing in November not only produced several important and tangible accomplishments, but more importantly it stabilized the relationship, and created a more positive atmosphere. The recently concluded Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade further enhanced the bilateral relationship.

The central task going into a new year, therefore, is to build on this new momentum in order to strengthen the foundation of the relationship, build strategic trust, and work in tandem (or in parallel) on global issues of mutual concern.

While we hope that the new stabilization and momentum coming out of the summit between President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping is not temporary, as was the case following the 2011 summit between Obama and former Chinese president Hu Jintao, it will require hard work and consistent efforts on both sides to capitalize on the new gains made in Beijing in November.

Perhaps the most immediate opportunity - and one that would give an enormous boost to the relationship - would be an early conclusion to the negotiations on the Bilateral Investment Treaty. Early in the New Year the two governments are due to exchange draft "negative lists" of sectors which would be off-limits to investment from the other country. The fact that there will be such sectors is inevitable - the operative questions are which ones and can they be harmonized?

This is likely to produce some of the toughest negotiations in the US-China relationship since China's World Trade Organization entry negotiations nearly two decades ago. But they need not be as protracted as the WTO negotiations and can hopefully be brought to fruition quickly and efficiently. Both nations stand to benefit a great deal from further opening to bilateral investment.

Also on the agenda in the year ahead will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Of course, China is not a party to those negotiations - but if they are concluded successfully and TPP comes into being China will have significant incentives to conform and comply with the standards set, even as it pursues its own vision of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, an initiative Xi gained a consensus on at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings.

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