Xi-Obama talks concentrate on complex global, economic issues


US President Barack Obama (L) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not in picture) at the West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou on September 3, 2016 ahead of the 11th G20 Leaders Summit which will be held from September 4 to 5. Photo: Wang Zhao/EPA

A long list showcasing the outcomes of the bilateral talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama, ranging from the economy to security and climate change, fully reflects the complexity and comprehensiveness of Sino-US relations, and has set a positive tone for talks among international leaders during the G20 summit, experts said Sunday.

The foreign ministry on Sunday issued a list resulting from the two leaders' Saturday meeting ahead of the G20, said to have lasted more than four hours. It detailed agreements reached by the two sides in 35 areas. 

The two-day G20 summit in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, started on Sunday.

Nearly one-third of the list is related to economic issues. Specifically, the two countries promised to use all policy tools - monetary, fiscal and structural - to boost confidence and facilitate growth. Both parties also reaffirmed their commitments to avoid competitive devaluation and not target exchange rates for competitive purposes. China will continue an orderly transition to a market-determined exchange rate, enhancing two-way flexibility.  China stresses that there is no basis for a sustained depreciation of the yuan.  

The consensus on exchange rates between China and the US marks a vital result of the meeting of the two country's heads, said TuXinquan, deputy dean at the China Institute for WTO Studies at the Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics. There was a time when exchange rates were an issue between China and the US, but the US has changed its attitude in the past two years, and no longer accuses China of manipulating the yuan's exchange rate, Tu told the Global Times.

"The exchange rate agreement sends a positive message, but it's a shame that the US hasn't promised that it won't drastically appreciate the US dollar in the near future, which will destabilize other currencies," He Weiwen, an executive council member at the China Society for WTO Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.

He said that an important consensus lies in the recognition that excess capacity in industries like steel is a global issue and needs joint efforts, which is a step forward, as in the past China was blamed for causing overcapacity in global industries. 

Both countries restated the WTO's central position in the world economy, and promised to boost communication and coordination related to WTO matters, which is the focus of the agreement list, said He.

Zhang Haibing, director of the Institute for World Economy Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said that since China and the US are important G20 economies, agreements between the two are important and this will bode well for the G20 summit as a whole.

Global coverage

The Chinese list differs from the fact sheet on bilateral talks released by the White House, which just mentioned two economic issues, policy tools and exchange rates. 

The US has listed peacekeeping at the top of its fact sheet, in which "the US and China decided to collaborate in building the peacekeeping capacity of third-country partners" and China announced "the establishment of a 8,000-strong standby peacekeeping force."

The list is long and comprehensive, indicating that the Sino-US bilateral relationship is global in nature, said Zhang, noting that the list mentions Afghanistan, Africa, food security, climate change, nuclear security and some other issues, which goes beyond the regular scope of bilateral relations.

China and the US also agreed to improve cooperation in fighting cross-border terrorism and cyber terrorism, and China appreciates the US including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement on a sanctions list, according to the Chinese version. The two sides also emphasized military exchanges and rules for the safety of air and maritime encounters.

Media hype

An argument between Obama's staff and Chinese security over media access when he arrived at the Hangzhou airport on Saturday attracted world media attention. 

"None of this detracts from the broader scope of the relationship [with China]," Reuters cited Obama as saying at a news conference. "The bilateral discussions that we had yesterday were extremely productive and continue to point to big areas of cooperation."

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