WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama called for deeper U.S.-Chinese economic cooperation on Monday and outlined a broad agenda for a positive relationship between two countries that do not always see eye to eye.
Obama opened two days of talks between high-ranking American and Chinese officials that are intended to get the new Obama administration off to a good start with Beijing, to address the global economic crisis, climate change and the dispute with North Korea over nuclear weapons.
The relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world, Obama said. That reality must underpin our partnership.
At the start of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, both Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner avoided any mention of sensitive currency issues that have long been an issue between the two countries.
The Obama administration has sought to tread gently on some of the main issues that have separated the two countries in the past, such as the U.S. charge that Beijing manipulates its currency and represses ethnic minorities.
Obama did mention human rights, saying both nations believe that the religion and culture of all peoples must be respected.
That includes ethnic and religious minorities in China, as surely as it includes minorities within the United States, he said.
The lion's share of his remarks focused on the U.S.-Chinese economic relationship and how the two countries should work together to help restore economic growth.
The current crisis has made it clear that the choices made within our borders reverberate across the global economy -- and this is true not just of New York and Seattle but Shanghai and Shenzhen as well, Obama said.
That is why we must remain committed to strong bilateral and multilateral coordination, he said.
He said the United States and China can promote financial stability through greater transparency and regulatory reform, pursue free and fair trade and seek to conclude an ambitious and balanced Doha Round, the long-running trade talks.
As Americans save more and Chinese are able to spend more, we can put growth on a more sustainable foundation because just as China has benefited from substantial investment and profitable exports, China can also be an enormous market for American goods, he said.
Obama also outlined an agenda for addressing North Korea's refusal to give up nuclear weapons.
He said the United States and China must continue our collaboration to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and make it clear to North Korea that the path to security and respect can be traveled if they meet their obligations.
(Additional reporting by Glenn Somerville; Editing by Bill Trott)