As the annual U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) gets underway in Washington D.C., the backdrop could hardly be more different from a year ago.
In 2015, each side in the series of annual meetings that cover everything from agriculture to cybersecurity had its own policy advantages, and policy continuity was the result of years of work by both sides.
Just a year ago, enthusiasm for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) also remained strong, with an official signing ceremony in Auckland, New Zealand, just months away. The agreement was positioned as America's last, best hope to stay relevant in Asia's economies.
And by design, the agreement positioned China as an outsider in its own neighbourhood, instead lining Asian countries up behind aging American assumptions around trade, intellectual property and services in the world's fastest-growing region.
Also around the same time, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced China's inclusion in the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket, an exclusive reserve status that the IMF had previously conferred only on the dollar, euro, pound and yen. Through SDR status, the IMF granted the renminbi a legitimacy coveted by many central banks, but seemingly necessary for the world's second biggest economy. In short, it helped to transform the renminbi from a transactional currency for global trade into an investment currency.
Much of the past year seemed to imply a smooth glide path for both the TPP and the renminbi.