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China, U.S. Continue Strategic Dialogue

Top officials from the United States and China are meeting again this week in an ongoing forum created two years ago to address key economic issues that face the two nations. Though progress has been slow in resolving several policy disputes, these talks could produce agreement between Washington and Beijing to coordinate on two challenges they face together: improving energy efficiency and security and balancing economic growth and environmental sustainability.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan are meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, as part of the Strategic Economic Dialogue, a process set up in 2006 to reduce tensions over trade, currency and related disputes that had roiled up between the two nations. These topics have dominated the cabinet-level discussions, which have been held about every six months.

Moving beyond those concerns, however, the parties last December pledged that over the next ten years they would work together to address concerns that unite them in the energy and environmental sectors. The U.S. is the world’s largest energy consumer, while China is the fastest-growing consumer. Both countries rely on large amounts of imported oil to support their economies and rightly worry about costs and supply disruptions. Both are leading sources of the greenhouse gases associated with climate change.

A cooperative framework is expected to emerge from the talks that will address key energy and environment challenges paving the way for greater energy efficiency through improved transportation and power generation technology.

The U.S. and China both know that economic growth tomorrow requires conserving energy and the environment today.