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Upcoming SED talks more crucial than ever
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Trade relations between China and the United States is gaining more significance during the current global economic uncertainty, and the upcoming Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) should play a role in enhancing bilateral trade and curb protectionism, trade experts say.

The two countries should further cooperation in the energy and environment sectors after the framework was set up in the fourth session in Washington in June this year. The cooperation in these areas is a good way to ease the huge trade imbalance between the two countries, long a major concern in bilateral trade relations, said experts.

The US was China's second-largest trading partner in 2007. According to Customs figures, bilateral trade reached US$302.8 billion, up by 15 percent year-on-year.

China's exports to the US were valued at US$232.7 billion, and its imports from the US were US$69.38 billion. China had a surplus of US$163.32 billion.

Zhou Shijian, a senior researcher with Tsinghua University's Center for China-US Relations Studies, said the cooperation in the energy and environment sectors could provide hundreds of billions dollars of business to US companies.

China has a long way to go in terms of improving its energy efficiency. The country also needs technologies to help clean its environment, which has become a major issue in China's economic development. And the US has an advantage in these two sectors, he said.

Zhou also warns that the two sides need to work against protectionism, as the global economy is faced with uncertainty.

"Usually when demand is weak and the market shrinks, people would use protectionism as a tool to protect domestic jobs, but that will only lead trade and the economy into a worse situation," said Zhou.

Despite the fast increase in bilateral trade, in 2007, there was a rise in case numbers and frequency in combined antidumping and countervailing investigations against China from the US side.

"Trade protectionism is on the rise, running counter to the general trend of falling trade remedy cases in the world," says Foreign Market Access Report, a report prepared by the Ministry of Commerce released earlier this year.

The SED that starts Thursday, a dialogue mechanism initiated by top officials from the two countries in 2006, is going to be the last session under the current Bush administration. But experts said this high-level platform would continue.

"We are interdependent now," said Zhou. China is the largest creditor of the US, and the US is China's major investor. By the end of 2007, the US had invested in a total of 54,838 projects in China, and the actual investment has reached US$56.58 billion.

"We strongly believe that this mechanism should and will carry on (under the new US administration)," assistant Minister of Finance Zhu Guangyao said when meeting the press last week

(China Daily December 3, 2008)

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