China decried U.S. tariffs, requested equal treatment for its firms in Raimondo meeting

By Joe Cash

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s commerce minister urged Chinese companies investing in the U.S. to be given “equal treatment” and called U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports “discriminatory”, when he met U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo this week, his ministry said on Thursday.

Wrapping up her four-day visit to Beijing on Wednesday, Raimondo said she had not expected any breakthroughs but was “leaving with some optimism,” after engaging with top Chinese leaders, including with commerce minister Wang Wentao.

The world’s two biggest economies used to be each other’s largest trade partners, and while both governments publicly oppose decoupling, China is now trading more with Southeast Asia and the U.S. with neighbouring Canada and Mexico.

A tariff war erupted between Beijing and Washington under the previous Trump administration. Since then, U.S. President Joe Biden and some U.S. allies have restricted exports to China of advanced semiconductors and the equipment to make them, citing security concerns.

“China demands the U.S. give equal treatment to Chinese enterprises investing in the U.S. in terms of market access, regulatory enforcement, public procurement and policy support,” Shu Jueting, a commerce ministry spokesperson, said.

“China expressed serious concerns concerning the U.S.’ distriminatory (Section) 301 tariffs,” she added.

The commerce secretary was the latest Biden administration official to visit China in a bid to strengthen communications, particularly on economics and defence, amid concern that friction between the superpowers could spiral out of control.

“We believe that a better way to de-risk is to bring China-U.S. economic and trade relations back to a stage of sound and steady development,” Shu said.

Wang and Raimondo have agreed to meet at least once a year.

(This story has been refiled to fix the date of Raimondo press conference to Wednesday, not Tuesday, in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Albee Zhang and Joe Cash; Editing by Christian Schmollinger & Simon Cameron-Moore)