The U.S. and Chinese governments are holding a vice ministerial meeting today (Nov. 2) in order to prepare for an annual meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), which observers now say will likely take place as scheduled this December despite leadership transitions in both countries. However, several sources said the dates for the JCCT will likely not be announced until mid-November, after China's leadership transition.
Heading up the U.S. side at the meeting today will be Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and Commerce Undersecretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez. At the meeting, U.S. and Chinese officials will continue the process of determining what "deliverables" might be possible for top government officials to announce when they meet for the formal JCCT meeting, sources said.
In light of the distraction of the U.S. elections and China's leadership transition, some observers speculate that the JCCT meeting this year may yield marginally less in terms of concrete results. There are also personnel questions on both sides: the U.S. administration has not yet appointed a permanent Commerce secretary, and USTR Ron Kirk has made clear that he is not interested in serving a second term even if President Obama is re-elected.
The Chinese delegation to the JCCT has traditionally been headed up by Wang Qishan, the vice premier who handles trade and investment issues and economic relations with the U.S. under the JCCT and the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED). But observers expect Wang to be elevated from the Politburo to the Politburo's Standing Committee during the leadership transition in Beijing later this month. The Standing Committee is comprised of the Politburo's top members.
One observer this week said it remains to be seen whether Wang, assuming he is elevated to the Standing Committee, would continue to be directly involved in the JCCT and S&ED meetings. Wang is well known, has a global network of contacts, and is seen as a capable leader on economics issues. Many in the U.S. would likely prefer that he continue to head up the Chinese delegation in both fora, this observer said.
The 18th Communist Party Congress is scheduled to start on Nov. 8, which is the venue at which China's new leaders for the next ten years will be announced.