BEIJING -- The United States and China are launching a new high-level economic dialogue meant to repair relations soured by trade tensions, U S Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and a Chinese leader said yesterday.
The discussions will deal with long-range and big-picture issues that affect the United States and China, Paulson and Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi said in disclosing the arrangement on the first day of his visit to Beijing.
Relations between the countries, once buoyed by robust trade, have deteriorated in recent years as China's trade surplus rockets ever higher and critics in Washington accuse Beijing of keeping its currency undervalued to make Chinese exports cheaper. Washington also wants Chinese help in restarting world trade talks.
Neither Paulson nor Wu said whether the currency or the trade gap would be addressed in the dialogue. A U S Treasury Department statement said Washington would continue to press Beijing over those issues, as well as China's need for better protection of intellectual property.
Paulson suggested that the dialogue should put economic relations in a new perspective.
``As global economic leaders we share responsibility to maintain open markets at home and promote free and fair trade in all countries," Paulson told reporters in Beijing's Great Hall of the People. The dialogue ``reflects the 21st century global economy and redefines the economic relationship between the United States and China."
Such talk was likely well-received in Beijing, which wants to be treated as an equal partner by Washington, and is in keeping with a new tone Paulson has sought to inject in U S -China relations. The Bush administration's frequent use of public pressure in the past few years produced only marginal changes in Chinese policy on trade and the currency.
Paulson dismissed the possibility of breakthroughs on the currency or trade disputes on this trip. He said its goal is the creation of a new dialogue with a ``better, more productive tone."
Aside from the meeting with Wu, who was joined by Finance Minister Jin Renqing, Paulson was scheduled to meet other economic decision-makers as well as President Hu Jintao.
Exchange rate reform is among steps that Washington wants China to take in order to cut its trade gap with the United States, which last year reached $202 billion and is expected to top that this year. Paulson, however, has said that he expects such reforms to take time.
Chinese leaders say they eventually will let the currency, the yuan, trade freely on world markets. But they say doing so immediately would cause economic turmoil, harming China's fragile banks and financial industries.