Last month, senior officials from the U.S. and China conducted the 23rd U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in Washington, D.C.  The JCCT was founded in 1983 as a forum for high-level dialogue on bilateral trade issues.  This year’s JCCT resulted in several technology-related commitments from both China and the U.S.

China’s technology-related commitments included:

  • Requiring state-owned enterprises and banks to purchase and use legitimate software.
  • Reaffirming that technology transfer and cooperation will not be a precondition for market access, and pledging to revise regulations that specify an indigenous intellectual property requirement for high-level information security products.
  • Considering views of all stakeholders with regard to the regulation of information technology, telecommunications hardware, operating systems, applications, and app stores.  We previously wrote on China’s proposed regulations regarding smartphone applications here.  China also affirmed that it would not mandate any particular encryption standard (such as the ZUC standard) for commercial 4G LTE equipment.

U.S. technology-related commitments reportedly included easing restrictions high-technology and dual-use exports from the U.S. to China.  However, acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank clarified that restrictions would not be eased for items on the U.S. munitions list.

Cynical observers may note that the same commitments have been made during prior JCCTs, without much impact.  U.S. stakeholders have remarked that China has promised in the past to require state-owned companies to use legitimate software, with limited results.  The Chinese media have commented that the U.S. has promised in the past to increase the number of high-technology exports from the U.S. to China, but has not upheld this promise.

However, the fact that the 23rd JCCT occurred at all, despite leadership transitions in both countries, demonstrates the U.S. and China’s commitment to resolving trade issues.  China’s Vice Premier Wang Qishan co-chaired the JCCT despite recently being elevated to the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee.  The U.S. side was led by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who intends to step down from his position, and acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, who has been acting in that position since June, when former secretary John Bryson stepped down.