Visiting China, Schumer urges fair treatment of US firms

By Brenda Goh

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Saturday Washington did not seek to decouple from China, but wanted reciprocal and fair treatment for U.S. companies, as he kicked off a rare trip to the world’s second-largest economy.

Schumer, who made the remarks at a meeting with Chen Jining, Shanghai’s Communist Party Secretary, said the United States did not seek conflict and wanted to achieve a level playing field, “as we compete economically.”

Schumer is leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Asia, which includes stops in South Korea and Japan. It aims to advance U.S. economic and national security interests, and in China, the group hopes to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The trip follows visits by a series of high-level Biden administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in August.

Schumer said “many of our constituents feel that in instances China does not treat American companies fairly,” stressing the need for “reciprocity, allowing American companies to compete as freely in China as Chinese companies are able to compete here.”

After passing a sweeping bill last year to boost competition with China in semiconductors and other technology, Schumer and Democratic committee leaders said in May they would write legislation to limit the flow of technology to China, deter it from initiating a conflict with Taiwan and tighten rules to block U.S. capital from going to Chinese companies.

The group of six senators, co-led by Republican Mike Crapo, will meet government and business leaders in the three countries they are visiting, and from U.S. companies operating in the region.

Other senators on the trip include Republicans Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy and Democrats Maggie Hassan and Jon Ossoff. The group landed at Shanghai’s Pudong airport at 2 p.m. (0600 GMT).

Shanghai’s Chen said the ties between the two countries were the most important bilateral relationship in the world, and said there was a need to cooperate.

The Biden administration has placed curbs on chip exports to China, saying they aim to deny it access to advanced technology that could further military advancements or rights abuses. China hit back with accusations of economic coercion.

Raimondo said in August that U.S. companies had complained to her that China has become “uninvestable”, pointing to fines, raids and other actions that made it risky to do business there. “For U.S. business in many cases, patience is running thin, and it’s time for action,” she said.

(Writing by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Robert Birsel and Ros Russell)