Chinese, US commerce chiefs hold ‘candid’ talks in Washington

BEIJING: China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo held talks in Washington on Thursday, engaging in “candid, professional and constructive exchanges” on China-US economic and trade relations as well as issues of common concern, the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said in a statement on its website on Friday morning.

The Chinese side expressed deep concerns over the US’ economic and trade policy toward China, its policy on semiconductors and export controls, as well as its outbound investment review policy, according to MOFCOM.

The meeting between the two ministers, on top of the recent resumption of high-level engagements between Beijing and Washington, is one of the most important meetings between the two countries after the US shot down an unmanned Chinese civilian airship and hyped “China threat” which drove China-US relations to a new low.

Chinese experts said the ministerial-exchange is of major importance as it takes the pledge by the leaders of the two countries from last year’s Bali meeting to manage differences and disagreements and prevent confrontation and conflict one step further.

It is believed that the meeting could help create an environment to solve, mitigate and manage differences in areas linked to trade and economic issues, the ballast stone of their bilateral ties.

China and the US agreed to set up communication channels to maintain and strengthen exchanges on specific economic and trade issues in addition to areas of cooperation, said MOFCOM in a notice.

The meeting between Wang and Raimondo is being closely watched as a first barometer of the chance for success between the two sides to restore high-level exchanges after months of recrimination.

Chinese experts said the frank exchanges and the concerns raised by Minister Wang addressed the core issues of China-US economic and trade relationships – the US’ crackdown and containment of China related to advanced technology must stop.

“The concerns are clear, detailed and to the punch,” He Weiwen, a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Friday.

“If the US side is sincere on restoring and stabilizing bilateral trade and economic ties, people can expect it will take some actions to at least partially roll back, cancel or alter its restrictive crackdown policies targeting China, from tariffs to restrictions on Chinese firms,” He said.

The two [sides] had candid and substantive discussions on issues relating to the US-China commercial relationship, including the overall environment in both countries for trade and investment and areas for potential cooperation, according to a readout on the US Department of Commerce on Thursday US time.

This meeting was part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage the relationship, the readout said.

Chinese experts said that the core issues hindering China-US trade and economic ties at the moment are tariffs and the US crackdown on Chinese companies.

The reestablished of communication channels will be conducive to effectively settling concerns of the two sides, which means achievement from the two ministers’ meeting is significant, He said, noting that the move paves way for the two sides to reestablish mechanisms for more structured dialogue in the next phase.

There were over 100 high-level dialogue mechanisms in place between the two countries prior to the Trump-era, all of which have been suspended or have fallen away.

Past experiences have shown that these mechanisms help in stabilizing overall trade and economic issues as well as addressing specific and urgent issues effectively, He said.

Raimondo also raised concerns about the recent spate of PRC actions taken against US companies operating in China, according the readout from the US Department of Commerce.

Prior to his departure, on Monday, Wang reassured US companies that China continues to welcome US companies to develop in China and achieve win-win results based on mutual respect and benefit at a business symposium in Shanghai. Representatives from several US companies including Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Dow, Merck, and Honeywell attended the event.

Chinese experts noted that legal action taken against a number of US consultancy firms and the cybersecurity review by relevant Chinese authorities on Micron’s products sold in China have been carried out in accordance with the law and are based in fact.

The actions should not be confused or compared to US’ broad crackdown on Chinese companies under the pretext of national security.

The US has used national security as a pretext to put more than 1,200 Chinese companies and individuals on various lists and subjected them to all kinds of restrictions despite the lack of hard evidence of wrongdoing, Mao Ning, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday, noting that such moves constitute economic coercion and are unacceptable.

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