US commerce secretary to visit China next week for talks

By AFP   August 22, 2023 | 06:17 pm PT
US commerce secretary to visit China next week for talks
U.S. commerce secretary Gina Raimondo will visit China next week. Photo by AFP/Brendan Smialowski
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will visit China next week, Beijing and Washington said Tuesday, adding to a slew of US officials dispatched in recent months to ease tensions between the world's largest economies.

Washington says it is seeking to better manage its frosty relations with China, with the two powers at loggerheads over everything from trade to human rights and Taiwan.

"Secretary Raimondo looks forward to constructive discussions on issues relating to the U.S.-China commercial relationship, challenges faced by US businesses, and areas for potential cooperation," the U.S. Department of Commerce said in a statement.

She will travel to both Beijing and Shanghai during the August 27-30 trip, Washington said.

Beijing also confirmed the visit, adding that Raimondo has been invited by her Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao.

Her visit will build on an agreement between Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden in Bali last year "to deepen communication between the U.S. and the PRC on a range of issues," Washington said.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have plummeted to some of their worst levels in decades, with Washington's trade curbs among the top of the laundry list of disagreements.

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

In a briefing on Tuesday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said: "Contrary to claims by some voices in China that we are seeking to slow down China's economy or weaken China's economic growth, that's just not the case."

"A stable Chinese economy is a good thing for the world," he said.

He added that Raimondo will carry the message that Washington is not seeking to decouple from China but rather to "de-risk", which means protecting its national security.

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 had sought to reassure Chinese officials about the expected curbs during a visit to Beijing last month, promising any new moves would be implemented in a transparent way.

She stressed the need for healthy economic competition and improved communication and urged cooperation on the grave threat posed by climate change.

But she also said she had raised serious concerns over what she called unfair economic practices by Beijing as well as issues around the protection of intellectual property.

Steadying ties

In June, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Beijing, where he met Xi and said progress had been made on a number of key sources of contention.

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

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

Biden is inviting Xi in November to San Francisco 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.

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