What's next for the US/China trade relationship?

Legislation | | MIC Customs Solutions |

The most recent US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade has outlined a number of key priorities for the evolving trade relationship between the two countries.

Though the global economic environment has undergone significant evolution in the last few years, the US and China remain the two largest economies in the world, and pivotally important markets for any business engaged in international trade.

As such, future developments in the commercial relationship between these two vital markets are likely to be of great interest to companies worldwide, making the recent US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) an event of great interest.

Held in Guangzhou, China, the conference saw high-level officials from both countries come together to discuss key initiatives in the areas of intellectual property rights and enforcement, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, competition policy and technology policy.

The outcomes of the meeting will have a significant impact on redefining the modern economic relationship between the countries, and create new opportunities for companies operating in and doing business with their counterparts in both nations.

Key outcomes

The discussions that took place at the JCCT meeting allowed US and Chinese representatives to reach agreements on future policy action in several key areas, including:

  • Intellectual property - China has agreed to a number of key commitments on intellectual property rights protection, including revisions to its trade secrets laws and civil judicial system to deter the misappropriation of trade secrets. A government-industry dialogue will also be initiated to enhance the systems available to address online counterfeiting, via cross-border enforcement efforts.
  • Pharmaceutical and medical devices - Efforts will be made to eliminate drug and medical device application backlogs and reduce the time to market in China, with steps including greater clinical trial exemptions for medical devices, enhanced pre-submission consultation opportunities for medical device applicants, and more transparent reform processes. China has also agreed that imported medical devices will be treated the same as domestically-manufactured products from now on.
  • Competition policy - Discussions took place over China's enforcement of its Anti-Monopoly Law, leading the country to agree to ensure commercial secrets obtained in the process of AML enforcement are protected under the law and cannot be disclosed to other agencies, with specific considerations given to how the AML will interact with the new intellectual property laws.
  • Technology policy - China has committed to nondiscriminatory and transparent policies for information security, including assurances that Chinese banks are free to purchase IT products regardless of the country of origin, while affirming a commitment to narrowing the scope of encryption regulations.


Representatives from the US government have expressed confidence that these changes will have a number of important implications for the way the countries do business, while benefiting the global economic trading environment in a number of important ways.

US secretary of commerce Penny Pritzker said: "A close and productive US-China commercial relationship, based on responsible partnership, is essential to the growth and stability of the global economy. Together, our countries account for nearly 35 per cent of global GDP. Our combined trade in goods and services add up to about one-fifth of all international trade."

The progress achieved also underlines the functional importance of the JCCT, which was established in 1983 and remains the primary forum for addressing bilateral trade and investment issues and promoting commercial opportunities between the US and China.

US trade representative Michael Froman said: "China is our largest export market outside North America, and it continues to be one of the most important drivers of economic growth in the world, despite a recent slowing in its rapid expansion. The benefits of these market-opening outcomes will be felt throughout our country in industries that support well-paying jobs."