The ‘Season of Summits’ continues

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8th Round S&ED June 2016 (Xinhua)Well really no sooner had the G7 at Ise-Shima Summit (May 26th-27th) in Japan concluded, then our attention was redirected to the US-China 8th S&ED (Security and Economic Dialogue) that concluded in Beijing on June 7th.  

The annual meeting is a chance to take the temperature once again of US-China relations. The Summit, as the name implies is made up of two tracks – the Strategic Track led by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry and State Councilor Yang Jiechi and each is a special representative to their respective leader.  Meanwhile the Economic Track was led by US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang.  

Even a quick read of the two communiques reveals just how different the tracks are.  The Strategic Dialogue took some 19 pages to report on its collective efforts, while the Economic Track took a mere 3.  

It is clear that the US came at the economic discussions urging changes and reforms to Chinese economic behavior and bringing the complaints and difficulties that US businesses have, and continue to face, in China. From the media report, below from the  the NYT,  it is clear that there is growing frustration in the US business community over the  array of regulations that inhibit US business interests in China:

James McGregor, Greater China chairman for communications consultancy APCO Worldwide, who attended a Tuesday event for executives with senior U.S. and Chinese officials, said executives were blunt in stressing how negative things were becoming for foreign companies in China.

It is also apparent that US officials continue to press China on market reform and urge it to transition to a more consumer-based model.  Also, obviously US officials, most likely with various congressmen’s words ringing in their ears continue to fear Chinese renminbi manipulation.

The United States secured a commitment from China to continue market oriented exchange rate reform that allows for two-way flexibility and to refrain from competitive devaluation. Since June 2010, the RMB has appreciated 24 percent on an inflation-adjusted, trade-weighted basis. Building on the significant progress made to date, the Administration will continue to push for exchange rate reform and transparency as priorities in its bilateral engagement with China.

This statement was followed by a reminder that China had committed to avoid competitive valuations.  

China committed to continue market-oriented exchange rate reform, allowing for two-way flexibility of the RMB, and stressed that there is no basis for sustained depreciation of the RMB. … China also reaffirmed its G20 commitments to avoid competitive devaluation and not target the exchange rate for competitive purposes. These exchange rate commitments are vital in leveling the playing field for American exports, workers, and firms, and promoting China’s transition to consumption led growth

Presumably this statement was to take the place of any joint and new commitment and to at least say something about currencies, that remains a focus of attention with the US Congress. But the communique is sprinkled with these confirmations and reminders of things previously said. But agreements do take time and meanwhile the communique signals continued interest in the subjects identified.      

While the Economic Track communique seems to be a filled with US ‘asks’ and occasional Chinese gives, the Strategic Track communique is of a wholly different character. This communique reveals an extensive web of relationships, agreements, working groups, forum – you name it.  The S&ED, or at least the Strategic Track, reveals a classic instance of what I have described in the past as the ‘Iceberg Theory of Global Governance’. Back in 2011 I identified this ‘Iceberg Theory’ framing and described it as a basic feature of modern global summit.  This has been true especially among the Informals.   The Iceberg Theory describes the mechanics of global governance:

It is frequently forgotten that the Gx system – most notably the G20 Leaders Summit – is not just about leaders.  In fact there is a fair complement of personal representatives, ministers, other officials, IFIs and other IOs plus global regulators that make the Gx system work – or not.

And the Strategic Track communique early points to a number of bilateral high‑level exchanges such as the Strategic & Economic Dialogue, the Consultation on People‑to‑People Exchange, the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, and the High‑Level Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues . But this but the ‘higher’ level joint instruments.  The actual number of continuing forum, working groups etc., joint continuing conferences, forum is rather breath taking.  Look at the subjects that officials are engaged in and identified in the communique:

  1. military-to-military relations
  2. confidence building measures
  3. strategic security dialogue
  4. cyber security
  5. nonproliferation
  6. anti-corruption and combatting international bribery
  7. cooperation on anti-corruption in the G20 and APEC
  8. law enforcement cooperation
  9. legal advisers consultation
  10. disability rights
  11. nuclear security
  12. commodity identification training for nonproliferation export control
  13. combatting the smuggling of nuclear materials
  14. nuclear forensics analysis
  15. customs cooperation on supply chain security and facilitation
  16. customs law enforcement
  17. container security initiative
  18. cooperation on joint validation and AEO mutual recognition
  19. emergency management
  20. the Korean Peninsula
  21. Afghanistan
  22. Sudan and South Sudan
  23. Iran
  24. Syria
  25. Iraq
  26. counterterrorism
  27. Asia-Pacific
  28. peacekeeping
  29. United Nations
  30. humanitarian assistance and disaster response
  31. global development
  32. 2030 agenda for sustainable development
  33. responsible mineral supply chain
  34. wildlife trafficking
  35. consultation on international economic affairs
  36. commitment to working toward full implementation of the Paris Agreement
  37. climate change working group
  38. achieving a successful outcome on HFCs under the Montreal Protocol
  39. enhancing the collaboration in ICAO
  40. CCWG (climate change working group) heavy-duty and other vehicles
  41. CCWG smart grids
  42. clean, efficient and secure electricity production and transmission
  43. CCWG carbon capture use and storage (CCUS)
  44. CCWG energy efficiency in buildings and industry
  45. CCWG collecting and managing greenhouse gas (GHG) data
  46. CCWG climate change and forests
  47. industry boiler energy efficiency
  48. CCWG climate-smart/low-carbon cities
  49. CCWG power consumption, demand and competition
  50. green ports and vessels initiative
  51. clean energy research center
  52. renewable energy partnership
  53. strategic petroleum reserves
  54. energy security
  55. civil nuclear energy R&D
  56. nuclear safety
  57. peaceful uses of nuclear technologies
  58. peaceful nuclear cooperation
  59. shale gas training program, phase II
  60. energy regulation cooperation
  61. energy cooperation program combatting illegal logging and associated trade
  62. forest health management
  63. air quality
  64. water quality
  65. management of chemicals
  66. hazardous material safe storage and transportation
  67. management of waste and contaminated sites
  68. enforcement of environment laws
  69. environment laws and institutions
  70. parks management
  71. nature conservation
  72. green infrastructure reverse trade missions
  73. global oceans
  74. sustainable fishing, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing
  75. marine litter prevention and reduction
  76. marine protected areas
  77. ocean observation
  78. maritime law enforcement
  79. maritime safety and security
  80. law of the sea and polar issues
  81. aviation cooperation cooperation program
  82. aviation technical assistance workshops
  83. aviation security
  84. transportation forum
  85. freight rail reverse trade missions
  86. space security
  87. civil space
  88. public health capacity building in Africa
  89. global health security
  90. healthcare reform
  91. smoke-free workplaces
  92. health science and technology
  93. climate science and greenhouse gas monitoring
  94. severe weather monitoring 
  95. food security
  96. agriculture and food partnership
  97. strategic agricultural science cooperation
  98. public-private cooperation in precision agriculture
  99. metrology and standard forum
  100. ecopartnerships
  101. sub-national legislatures cooperation forum
  102. sister cities conference 
  103. ten-year framework on energy and environmental cooperation
  104. joint working group on environmental research 
  105. joint committee on environmental cooperation
  106. joint working group of the protocol on cooperation in the field of marine and fishery science and technology
  107. joint working group on environmental research 
  108. joint committee on environmental cooperation
  109. joint working group of the protocol on cooperation in the field of marine and fishery science and technology
  110. joint commission meeting on science and technology cooperation 
  111. energy efficiency forum
  112. Chinese Academy of Sciences-Department of Energy joint coordinating committee
  113. oil and gas industry forum
  114. clean coal industry forum
  115. fossil energy protocol 
  116. data security and user’s personal information protection dialogue 
  117. joint working group on US-China agricultural science and technology cooperation

Now some mark but continuing collaborative efforts but others identify the movement of the yardsticks on a subject.  What we have is a thick web of intergovernmental and nongovernmental efforts.  This is the real foundation of summitry and while there is an evident emphasis on the leaders and what they ratify or signal, the work of this critical joint government goes on.

This is the contemporary stuff of global collaboration.

Image Credit: Xinhua

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