US & Canada

Viewpoint: US-China ties can boost the global economy

Chinese people shopping
Image caption China needs to encourage domestic consumption to increase the US export market

China has cemented its place alongside the US and Europe as one of three principal engines of the global economy.

Yet both the Chinese and US economies confront growing vulnerabilities, and thus have special responsibilities.

Beijing and Washington do not always need to work jointly. But they do need to take steps - mostly individually, sometimes together - that will support and sustain economic growth.

And to do that, Washington and Beijing will need a new framework to guide their economic relations. Neither country can address today's dynamic and considerable economic challenges with the policies they have currently.

These five principles could help put their economies on a sounder, more complementary footing:

1) Unlock the promise of capital and cross-investment

For the US, this means assuring greater openness to Chinese investment, leading to the creation of American jobs.

For China, it means undertaking financial reforms now that Beijing might well prefer to kick down the road.

2) Assure financial markets are transparent and have strong oversight

For the US, this means clarifying new regulations and implementing sensible regulatory practices. It also means correcting flawed policies that led to massive consumer debt, a housing bubble, and unsustainable household leverage ratios.

For China, it means speeding up financial reforms and strengthening oversight and transparency of non-bank lending. It also means correcting flawed practices that have led to massive producer debt and the misallocation of capital.

3) Work to strengthen market confidence in our economies

For the US, this means overcoming the markets' lack of confidence in our government's ability to take the necessary steps to protect our economy and keep it competitive.

For China, it means overcoming a lack of transparency, not least a dearth of trust in government data and questions about corporate accounting and disclosure.

4) Free up bilateral trade

For the US, this argues for moving toward bilateral trade negotiations with China. The global trade round of talks is going nowhere fast. And it also means granting China market economy status on a sector-by-sector basis.

For China, this means boosting domestic consumption so that its market becomes a much bigger export destination for US goods and services; expanding market access, including by completing residual WTO commitments; and ending an array of discriminatory and anti-competitive practices.

Image caption President George W Bush appointed Mr Paulson Treasury Secretary

5) Help technology flow more efficiently and promote innovation

For the US, this means reforming our outdated export control system while assuring our national security. Too often, we restrict trade that would create US jobs and is in our national interest.

Separately, the clean energy policy challenge is now so great that we should have a US-China pilot project, relying on scientific input and evidence, to make it easier for the world's two largest economies, energy consumers, and carbon emitters to use the best technologies available.

For China, it means respecting and enforcing intellectual property commitments. But ultimately, it means making the shift from a consumer to a producer of intellectual property by legitimate means - not by using access to its market as a backdoor to obtain the intellectual property developed by others. Only when China innovates, not just assimilates, technology will it have enduring incentives to protect it.

The bottom line

We are missing opportunities to benefit from one another's strengths.

For America's part, we need a level playing field in China for US firms. But we also need more investment from China - which is, after all, sitting on over $3tn (£1.88tn) in foreign exchange reserves (much of it in US dollars), with billions more in the hands of corporations eager to invest here and become global companies.

And why wouldn't Americans want those dollars back, to be invested in productive ways that create American jobs and boost the American economy?

That is why we should be more open to Chinese investment. But it is also why Chinese investments would be on a sounder footing in the US if they help to establish good jobs for American workers.

For its part, China wants a fair shot at the US market too. The Chinese want policy changes that will allow better access to technology, and a clearer, more predictable process for investing in the US.

These five principles are intended to help our economies assure growth and expand opportunity.

They will require China to reform - perhaps at a faster pace than its leaders are comfortable with. But I believe reforming too slowly now poses a greater risk to China's economic stability than its leaders believe.

And America will need to address its fiscal deficit and growth outlook to strengthen and assure its competitiveness. That can only be achieved through fundamental reforms based on bipartisan cooperation.

There is no time to waste.

Henry Paulson is currently distinguished senior fellow at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. He was US Secretary of the Treasury from 2006 to 2009, and before that chief executive officer of investment bank Goldman Sachs.