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China, US seek closer trade relations ahead of Obama's visit

CHINA and the United States today started their annual trade talks in east China's Hangzhou city, aiming at addressing trade issues and laying the groundwork for a meeting between leaders of the two countries in Beijing.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan told the opening session of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) that as influential powers, China and the United States should firmly oppose all types of trade protectionism, promote both countries' economies and help lift the world out of recession.

Wang co-chaired the 20th JCCT talks with US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk in a garden compound in the capital of east China's Zhejiang province.

Locke hightlighted the significance of this year's talks, saying, "It was the first JCCT meeting of President Obama's administration and comes a few weeks ahead of President Obama's first visit to China."

Wang said President Barack Obama's visit in mid November will "provide new opportunities for China-US cooperation."

"In a spirit of candor and understanding, hopefully both sides will discuss issues of mutual concern and achieve fruitful results at today's JCCT meeting," Wang said.

"It is critical that we make definite, concrete, demonstrable progress today to demonstrate that US and China can work together to achieve results from the JCCT," Locke said.

China and the United States are each other's second-largest trading partners, with bilateral trade hitting US$211.87b from January to September in 2009, according to China Customs.

Some trade frictions between both countries are also expected to be addressed at the JCCT talks.

The JCCT has played a crucial role in addressing the China-US trade disputes, which have soared in value from less than US$2.5b in 1979 to US$333.7b in 2008.
At Thursday's talks, the Chinese side included officials from the ministries of commerce, agriculture, science, environment, transportation, health, agriculture, press and publishing and tourism. The US delegation consisted of officials from the departments of commerce, the trade representative office, agriculture, state, treasury and the US embassy in China.

The JCCT includes more than 10 working groups that deal with specific trade issues like trade, investment, energy, science and technology, transportation, aerospace, health, environmental protection, tourism, food security, product quality and others.

The JCCT began in 1983 as a platform for both countries to promote trade and address issues of mutual concern.


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