Cybersecurity and climate on agenda as Obama, Xi begin talks


US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping sat down for a private dinner Thursday at the start of a state visit set to be dominated by concerns about cyber-security, the Chinese economy and climate change.

The White House likened the dinner to a private meal the two leaders had in China last year designed to get the men to talk candidly.

“The president found that in-person interaction … sort of outside of the glare of the Klieg lights and away from sort of the formality and pomp and circumstance to be pretty insightful,” said spokesman Josh Earnest.

The US and China were due to outline Friday details of how they will reach goals set last year to reduce carbon emissions, including an announcement of a cap and trade system for Chinese companies and a move to prioritize green energy use.

China will also announce a financial contribution to help poor countries deal with climate change, US officials said.

The goal is to create new momentum ahead of international climate talks in Paris in December.

“This year is about showing the world our countries’ conviction to implement policies to reach those targets [agreed last year] and to lead the world toward a durable global climate agreement,” said a US official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because a formal announcement had not yet been made.

In this round of negotiations, there will no longer be a blanket exemption for so-called developing countries to reduce their emissions – nor a top-down requirement on developed countries.

Members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are volunteering how much they think they can reduce emissions, through the so-called “intended nationally determined contribution (INDC).”

To date, 35 countries have submitted their goals, including the US and China and a number of poorer countries. As the two largest emitters of greenhouse gasses blamed for global warming, the US and China have boycotted the previous climate change protocol.

Xi was to be formally welcomed at a ceremony on the White House lawn Friday morning ahead of morning talks, a joint press conference and a rare, formal state dinner.

Xi has been in Seattle meeting with US technology industry leaders, and Tuesday defended China’s right to impose its own regulations on the internet.

The US and China were reportedly also negotiating an agreement on cyberspace arms control as they confront US allegations of Chinese-government backed hacking.

Earnest said Thursday that he could not talk about any potential agreement, “but we have made clear to the Chinese both publicly and private that issues related to cyber-security and our concerns with China’s conduct in cyberspace will feature prominently on the agenda.”