US commerce secretary meets Chinese counterpart in Beijing

BEIJING (AFP): US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo met with her Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Monday, as Washington works to cool trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

Raimondo’s visit — which will last until Wednesday — is the latest in a series of high-level trips to China by US officials in recent months.

The visits could culminate in a meeting between the nations’ leaders, with US President Joe Biden saying recently that he was expecting to sit down with China’s Xi Jinping this year.

Raimondo met on Monday morning with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, who said it was a “great pleasure to conduct dialogue and coordination with you in the field of economy and trade”.

She arrived in Beijing on Sunday and was met by Lin Feng, the director of the commerce ministry’s Americas and Oceania department, as well as US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns.

In posts on the social media platform X, Raimondo said she was “looking forward to a productive few days”.

“I just landed in Beijing for a busy few days of meetings with senior PRC officials and US business leaders,” she said, referring to China by the initials for its official name.

The commerce department has said Raimondo hopes for “constructive discussions on issues relating to the US-China commercial relationship, challenges faced by US businesses, and areas for potential cooperation”.

She will also travel to China’s economic powerhouse Shanghai, Washington said.

– Trade tensions –

Relations between the United States and China have plummeted to some of their worst levels in decades, with Washington’s trade curbs near the top of the laundry list of disagreements.

Washington says its restrictions are crucial to safeguarding national security, while Beijing sees them as seeking to curb its economic rise.

This month, Biden issued an executive order aimed at restricting certain American investments in sensitive high-tech areas in China — a move Beijing blasted as being “anti-globalization”.

The long-anticipated rules, expected to be implemented next year, target sectors like semiconductors and artificial intelligence.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sought to reassure Chinese officials about the expected curbs during a visit to Beijing last month, promising that any new moves would be implemented in a transparent way.

In June, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Beijing, where he met Xi and said progress had been made on a number of key sources of contention. US climate envoy John Kerry also visited China in July.

But neither Yellen’s nor Blinken’s visit led to major breakthroughs, and a recent Camp David summit between the United States, South Korea and Japan aimed in part at countering China sparked condemnation from Beijing.

Following that summit, President Biden said he still expected to meet Chinese leader Xi again this year.

Biden is inviting Xi to San Francisco in November when the United States holds a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which includes China.

The two leaders could potentially also meet next month in New Delhi on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 major economies.