BEIJING The United States hopes to reach agreement with China during President Barack Obama's visit on how to record and monitor countries' efforts to fight global warming, a top State Department official said on Tuesday.
The comments by Robert Hormats, undersecretary for economic, energy and agricultural affairs, offered some insight into the types of deals Obama will be hoping to strike when he visits China next week.
Obama told Reuters in an interview on Monday that Washington and Beijing needed to work together on the big issues facing the globe, and that climate change would be a key part of his November 15-18 trip to Shanghai and Beijing.
Hormats held out the likelihood of concrete deals on energy cooperation and global warming, with an eye to ensuring the two powers have more common ground when they go into key global talks on the issue in Copenhagen next month.
"I think we need out of this visit real progress on climate change, ... how we can record internationally the kind of things we're doing domestically and how we can follow up and monitor one another for what we're doing," Hormats, the State Department's top economic official, told university students in Beijing.
China is considered the world's biggest annual emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activity.
The Copenhagen summit aims to forge a new global treaty to fight global warming, but disagreements over what emissions cuts should be expected of developed and developing nations, and who should pay for reductions, have made a firm deal seem elusive.
"QUICK, BOLD" MOVES
Hormats's comments suggested China and the United States may hope to narrow some differences on bringing Beijing's domestic actions against climate change into an international framework.
He voiced hope for progress on "internationalizing our commitments and on making sure that there's some monitoring, some follow-up device to keep each of our countries aware of what we've done and to categorize what we've done."
But his comments left unclear how that could be achieved and how much disagreement remained.
There are several clean energy projects that may be unveiled during Obama's visit, including on green cars, Hormats said.
He added that global economic imbalances would be an important topic of discussion, saying both countries needed to take steps to change their economic models -- in the case of the United States to rely less on credit-driven consumption, and in the case of China to rely more on domestic demand.
He went on to lavish praise on Chinese leaders for what he called their bold, quick and decisive action to confront the global financial crisis.
"The Chinese leadership's dealing with the financial crisis is one of the most significant reasons why the crisis has not deteriorated as much as many thought it might have earlier on."
The amount of coordination between financial authorities in the two countries, including that between the People's Bank of China and the U.S. Federal Reserve, has been "enormously impressive," he said.
Such long-term issues should not be overshadowed by trade disputes that have cropped up between the two countries, he said. Those have included U.S. anti-dumping duties on steel pipes that Beijing last week denounced as protectionist.
"I think you'll find the president saying some very constructive things about trade," Hormats said.
(Reporting by Jason Subler; Editing by Nick Macfie)