In Beijing last week, Secretary of State Clinton targeted for change the Bush Administration's stewardship of our economic relationship with China.
While Secretary Clinton should be applauded for recognizing the importance of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship, her view that this relationship "was very heavily dominated by economic concerns and by traditional Treasury priorities" is far from accurate.
Worse, her turf fight to wrest control of the economic dialogue from Treasury leadership is a mistake that will only compromise our economic relationship. This is a policy solution in search of a problem.
Taking a long-term view, America's economic relationship with China is the single-most important bilateral economic relationship in the world. It was with that long-term view that Bush Administration Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson established a mechanism for strengthening the relationship in the form of the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED).
While dialogue and cooperation between the nations on issues like North Korea were working, Paulson, a longtime China veteran from his work at Goldman Sachs, understood that our economic relationship with China lacked coordination and coherence. The economic portfolio was broad, encompassing trade, finance and investment, development, health, product safety, labor, energy and climate change. And responsibility for policy direction was dispersed among many U.S. agencies, including the Treasury Department, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Commerce Department, the Food and Drug Administration, the Energy Department, and others.