Tag Archives: Timothy Geithner

Key U.S.–Japan meeting overshadowed by U.S.–China diplomacy

BEIJING — As Japanese Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko visited the White House Monday, the continued strength of the U.S.–Japan relationship was a central message. But this first Washington summit of U.S. and Japanese leaders since the Democratic Party of Japan took control in 2009 was overshadowed in the transpacific news cycle by the U.S. relationship with China.

The timing of the Noda visit may well have been designed to set the stage for the U.S.–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, to occur this week in Beijing with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner leading a 200-strong U.S. delegation.

The U.S. “pivot” or “rebalancing” to Asia is a major concern in China, and U.S. leaders may have sought to reassure Japan that it is still a centerpiece of U.S. strategy in Asia and the Pacific.

If all had gone as planned, the administration could have enjoyed an Asia-focused news cycle all week, as the Japanese leader visited, followed by the meetings in Beijing.

But in the last days of preparation for the Japan summit, the U.S. government was confronted by a much more high-profile challenge: the escape of Chen Guangcheng a well known blind activist from extrajudicial house arrest, and his apparent flight to the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

As it happens, the first question for Obama in the Noda–Obama press conference was about Chen, not about Japan (though the reporter also asked Noda about Japan’s response to a potential North Korean nuclear test).

[Obama acknowledged he’s aware of “press reports” on the Chen case, but wouldn’t make a statement except to say the U.S. government always brings up human rights in its meetings with China.]

A lesser-known disappointment for some about the U.S.–Japan meeting is that it did not include an announcement that Japan would join the eight countries (including the United States) currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement that does not include China but does include other East Asian countries.

There is significant opposition to the TPP overall, mostly over its intellectual property measures that some view as a rehash of the SOPA/PIPA fight and over a perceived lack of transparency in the negotiations. But the greater opposition to the specific question of Japanese participation comes from sectors in Japan that would lose some existing trade protections, and from the U.S. auto industry.

In their White House statement, both leaders mentioned that TPP talks would continue, but the issue lies largely unresolved. Meanwhile, the U.S.–Japan relationship still spends time on the disposition of the U.S. base at Futenma, the challenge of North Korea, and rather generalized concerns about China.

Clinton on China relations: 'A more comprehensive approach'

The economy will be at the center of the U.S.–China relationship in the Obama administration, but a “comprehensive dialogue” is necessary. That’s the word from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking with reporters recently. The transcript is, strangely, undated.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, your colleague – now your colleague, Tim Geithner, raised some eyebrows with comments he made about China in his written testimony to the Senate. And I know that you are interested in the State Department having a robust role in economics as well as diplomacy. My question is about China. Should we read anything broader into what he said? Could we expect the Administration to have a slightly more vigorous diplomacy toward China? And also, what role do you see for the State Department in that relationship? Would you like to see State be the central player? I know under Mr. Paulson, he sort of consolidated a lot of that at the Treasury Department.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mark, we need a comprehensive dialogue with China. The Strategic Dialogue that was begun in the Bush Administration turned into an economic dialogue, and that’s a very important aspect of our relationship with China, but it is not the only aspect of our relationship.

So we’re going to be working together in the government across our agencies to design a more comprehensive approach that we think will be more in keeping with the important role that China is playing and will be playing as both a regional and international player on so many important issues.

So I look forward to working with my colleagues in government, in the White House, Treasury Department, and elsewhere, in forging such an approach. And I look very much forward to working with my counterparts in the Chinese Government, because I think there is – there are many opportunities for us to cooperate going forward.
And given the current global economic crisis, you know, we have to work our way through that with the minimum amount of damage to global capacity to restart the economy. You know, obviously, our economic problems here at home mean that people are being laid off not only here in America, but also in China. And so the economy will always be a centerpiece of our relationship, but we want it to be part of a broader agenda, and that’s what we’re working to achieve.

[h/t Jim Fallows]