Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Tuesday the US wants to maintain economic ties with Beijing as the world’s two largest economies work to ease strains during her high-profile trip to China.
(Bloomberg) — Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Tuesday the US wants to maintain economic ties with Beijing as the world’s two largest economies work to ease strains during her high-profile trip to China.
“President Biden asked me to come here to convey the message that we do not seek to decouple,” Raimondo said to the nation’s No. 2 official, according to an Associated Press video feed of remarks ahead of a mostly closed-door meeting. “We seek to maintain our $700 billion commercial relationship with China, and we hope that that relationship can provide stability for the overall relationship.”
Li called economic ties between the two nations the “ballast and anchor of stability” between them. “We do hope US side will work in same direction as the Chinese side, show sincerity and take concrete actions to maintain and further develop the bilateral relationship,” Li told Raimondo.
Raimondo is in the middle of a four-day tour through the Chinese capital and Shanghai as the US and China try to smooth ties. Tensions have been high for months over issues ranging from Taiwan to a China-linked hack of Raimondo’s emails and those of other US officials.
While it’s not clear whether the commerce secretary will meet with President Xi Jinping before her trip concludes Wednesday, she’s already spoken with several Chinese officials. Along with Premier Li, Raimondo attended a four-hour bilateral meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao on Monday.
She also spoke Tuesday with Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng, telling him that the US-China commercial relationship “is one of the most globally consequential.” Earlier in the day she met with Minister of Culture and Tourism Hu Heping, where the two agreed to hold a tourism leadership summit in China next year.
Her trip comes just weeks after the US issued a round of investment curbs targeting high-tech Chinese firms, which followed an earlier round of export controls issued last year. Beijing views these as part of a strategy to contain the nation’s technological advancements. Adding to strains, US President Joe Biden hosted the leaders of Japan and South Korea for a trilateral summit that China criticized as an attempt to sow division.
Raimondo has said her goal in China is to explain Washington’s rationale for controls to the Chinese and emphasize the US does not seek to limit China’s economic growth.
Read More: Raimondo Says Trade Can Stabilize US-China Relationship
On Monday, Washington and Beijing announced two new formal channels of diplomatic communication: a working group focused on commercial issues, along with an export control enforcement “information exchange.” The US said the latter is intended to explain its policies to the Chinese government without negotiating on national security.
The first meeting on export controls is set for Tuesday between senior staff on both sides, according to a senior Commerce official.
“This is a bit of old wine in a slightly new bottle,” said William McCahill, a senior adviser at the National Bureau of Asian Research with decades of experience in the US foreign service, in an interview on Bloomberg TV.
Even so, he said the fact that Raimondo and Wang have hashed out new mechanisms “is a sign of some movement toward a slightly more normal trading relationship.”
The last high-level US official to speak with Xi in person was Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit to Beijing in June. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and climate envoy John Kerry did not meet the Chinese leader during their trips in July.
The last time President Joe Biden and Xi came face-to-face was at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia last November. They’re slated to see each another again at the upcoming G20 in India next month, though it’s not clear whether they’ll hold a one-on-one meeting.
–With assistance from Nasreen Seria and Lucille Liu.
(Updates with details from Raimondo’s visit with Li Qiang.)
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