The never-ending chapter from China
Updated: 2012-10-12 09:55
By Zhang Yuwei (China Daily)
Related video: Gutierrez favors US-China dialogue
Former US commerce secretary is still fascinated by the evolving Chinese story, as he tells Zhang Yuwei in New York.
Former US commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez says he believes China and the US are too interdependent to risk a trade war. [Photo/China Daily]
On a mid-September afternoon - having returned from North Carolina where he joined Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's son for a meeting with Latino business owners - Carlos Gutierrez sits in his office in Citigroup Inc's downtown Manhattan building, busy with another media interview.
In this go-round on national television, the man who ran the Commerce Department during George W. Bush's second term isn't asked - as an ex-Cabinet secretary often is - about the US presidential race or politics per se. Today's topic is China, a country whose culture and people, Gutierrez says, "never cease to impress".
Wearing a light-gray suit, white shirt and black tie, Gutierrez looks relaxed, in contrast to a few weeks earlier when he was scurrying about the Republican National Convention in Tampa. As the trade adviser to Romney's campaign, Gutierrez spoke at the party gathering on Florida's Gulf of Mexico coast on a series of panels. The topics were tied to the US economy, the federal government's massive debt and immigration policy.
The former commerce chief is concerned about current economic conditions in the country. The government, he says, is relying too much on printing money - formally called "quantitative easing", whereby the Treasury Department buys its own bonds off the market - and its large stimulus package, "which didn't work very well" in Gutierrez's estimation.
At an estimated $16 trillion, the US sovereign debt this year surpassed the size of the country's economy. Continued big spending by Washington, the former Bush aide stresses, has created this problem, and he's worried.
"I was giving interviews 'til 11:30 at night sometimes" during the convention, he says.
It was only natural to quickly add a follow-up question about the RNC: Could Romney's China-bashing comments during the campaign, including his promise to brand Beijing a "currency manipulator" on his first day as president if he's elected, harm relations between the two countries.
"I think eventually there is going to have to be a face-to-face dialogue," Gutierrez answers. "The most important thing is to recognize that there are issues and problems."
Numbers provide an explanation. China has been the United States' fastest-growing export market for 11 consecutive years, though it remains in third place as the biggest US trade partner, just behind Canada and Mexico. China-US trade was worth $446.7 billion last year, according to China's Ministry of Commerce. Chinese imports of US goods and services amounted to $122.2 billion in 2011, surpassing $100 billion for the first time.
The former secretary says that while over the short term the two countries will have issues to resolve, the longer term will always confirm that China and the US have common interests.
"That's what brought us together and that will keep us together," he adds.
No trade war in sight
The Cuban-born Gutierrez, 58, who is now vice-chairman of the Institutional Clients Group at Citigroup, was chosen by Bush as the nation's 35th commerce secretary, a post he served in from 2005 to 2009.
He says the world's two economic leaders are too interdependent to risk a trade war.
But Gutierrez suggests that more dialogue between Washington and Beijing would help increase "transparency".