WASHINGTON (January 13, 2011) – At a lunch last Thursday hosted by the U.S.-China Business Council, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke laid out a path to unlock the full potential of the U.S.-China commercial relationship. Locke discussed how leveling the playing field for U.S. businesses in the Chinese market will help spur global innovation and economic growth and create jobs in America.
“More than two decades ago, on my first trip to mainland China, I could not imagine that the U.S.-China relationship would eventually become so consequential,” said Locke in the speech. “Nor could I have imagined a scene like we witnessed a few days ago: Defense Secretary Gates joining together with his Chinese counterpart to stress the need for stronger military ties between China and the United States.”
Locke applauded steps China has taken to open its markets since its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and progress made at the recent Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting. And he cited examples of American and Chinese companies working together to solve big, global challenges.
But the Secretary also discussed pressing concerns expressed by the U.S. business community about the commercial environment in China, including inadequate intellectual property protection, market-access issues, and lack of transparency in government decision-making.
Saying the current U.S.-China economic relationship is at a turning point in which previous policies and practices simply won’t do anymore, Locke urged China to deal meaningfully with concerns expressed by foreign businesses and for the international community to work together to encourage China to carry out promised reforms.
Locke expressed hope for a cooperative economic relationship, one that fosters long-term economic growth in both our countries.
The U.S.-China Business Council is a private, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that represents, advises and advocates for roughly 220 American companies that do business with China. The event attendees consisted of members of the Council, business leaders and policymakers.
He said the U.S. welcomes the explosive growth in places like Shanghai that has helped lift almost 200 million people out of poverty. In the years ahead, hundreds of millions more Chinese citizens will join the middle class.
Locke said we cannot tell exactly what that future will look like, but that it is certain to be a better future if the Chinese and American governments pursue cooperation over confrontation in the economic sphere.
“Cooperation that will put millions of our people to work,” he said. “Cooperation that will develop technologies to solve the most pressing environmental, economic and social challenges facing the world today.
“This is the great opportunity before China and the United States,” he added. “We just have to seize it.”
China is the top destination for American exports, behind just Canada and Mexico. America is the number one national market for Chinese exports. In the past 20 years, U.S. exports to China have increased by a factor of 12; imports from China have increased more than 30-fold.
“However, we are at a turning point in the U.S.-China economic partnership,” Locke continued. “Last year, China became the second largest economy in the world. And the policies and practices that have shaped our relations over the past few decades will not suffice over the next few decades.”