Intellectual property and cybersecurity were two key topics of interest to the business community that were discussed Friday in a meeting between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Let me mention some specifics,” said Obama in a press briefing. “First, with respect to our economic relationship, we agreed to step up our work toward a high-standard bilateral investment treaty that would help level the playing field for American companies. We’ve committed ourselves to a set of principles for trade in information technologies, including protection of innovation and intellectual property. President Xi discussed his commitment to accelerate market reforms, avoid devaluing China’s currency, and have China play a greater role in upholding the rules-based system that underpins the global economy—all of which are steps we very much support.
Obama continued, “I raised once again our very serious concerns about growing cyber-threats to American companies and American citizens. I indicated that it has to stop. The United States government does not engage in cyber economic espionage for commercial gain. And today, I can announce that our two countries have reached a common understanding on the way forward. We’ve agreed that neither the U.S. or the Chinese government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage. In addition, we’ll work together, and with other nations, to promote international rules of the road for appropriate conduct in cyberspace.”
Xi responded, “China and the United States are two major cyber countries and we should strengthen dialogue and cooperation. Confrontation and friction are not made by choice for both sides. During my visit, competent authorities of both countries have reached important consensus on joint fight against cyber-crimes. Both sides agree to step up crime cases, investigation assistance, and information-sharing. And both government will not be engaged in or knowingly support online theft of intellectual properties. And we will explore the formulation of appropriate state, behavior and norms of the cyberspace. And we will establish a high-level joint dialogue mechanism on the fight against cyber-crimes and related issues, and to establish hotline links.”
Although both leaders were in relative agreement, it remains unclear what either can do to ensure that their respective constituents comply. As reported in National Journal, Obama said, “President Xi, during these discussions, indicated to me that, with 1.3 billion people, he can’t guarantee the behavior of every single person on Chinese soil, which I completely understand. I can’t guarantee the actions of every single American.”
Writes Brendan Sasso in National Journal, “The agreement won praise from the U.S. tech industry, which has argued that Chinese spying has put it at an unfair disadvantage.” Sasso quotes Dean Garfield, the CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, as saying, “This announcement shows that the highest levels of government from both nations understand that cybersecurity tensions should not be a barrier to free trade and open systems of innovation. This agreement finally starts a sustained dialogue where there was very little communication. It illustrates a spirit of cooperation on a sensitive issue, which is a positive signal to technology companies.”