The twenty first session of the US/ China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade or JCCT is underway in Washington DC on Tuesday.
The first two days are being seen as a test of the Obama administration’s ability to bring down trade barriers that currently impede US exports and economic growth with China.
On Thursday the European Union will join the talks to broaden the discussion into global issues such as seeking a way to end the Doha round of world trade talks by next year.
US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk will co-chair the event alongside Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan.
US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will also join the dialogue.
During the meeting American and Chinese officials are expected to review progress made by over a dozen working groups covering a wide range of trade issues such as intellectual property rights, telecommunications, agriculture, medical devices and pharmaceuticals, and travel and tourism.
The talks complete a tough year of trade relations between the US and China in which Beijing’s booming economy has received the lion’s share of US attention.
Only last week a bipartisan group of members of the US House of Representatives complained that promises made by China at past JCCT meetings have failed to lead to commercially meaningful market access for US companies.
They urged the US delegation to press China to commit to specific targets for measuring how much it is cutting piracy of US software and other intellectual property and boosting imports of American goods.
The US is also expected to press China to loosen export restraints on rare earth minerals used in a variety of clean energy and high-tech industry technologies.
US concerns about China’s currency, which the United States contends is significantly undervalued, are not formally on the agenda but will be in the background of the talks.
Another major topic will be China’s “indigenous innovation” policies that threaten to force US companies to transfer intellectual property to China to participate in that country’s vast government procurement market.
Behind the scenes it’s hoped a way can be found for a summit to take place between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao in mid-January.
The JCCT was established in 1983 and is the primary forum for addressing bilateral trade matters and promoting commercial opportunities between the United States and China.
Last year, it was held in Hangzhou, China, and during the meetings China agreed to reopen its market to US pork and to remove barriers for American firms to China’s growing clean energy market.