China, US set to hold fresh talks on trade disputes

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US and Chinese officials will hold a fresh round of talks on contentious trade issues Tuesday, the third day of a visit to Beijing by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Raimondo’s trip to China is the latest by a senior US official in recent months as Washington seeks to defuse tensions with the world’s second-largest economy.

On Monday she met with commerce minister Wang Wentao, with the two sides agreeing to set up a working group to iron out the laundry list of trade disputes between them.

They also agreed to set up what Washington called an “export control enforcement information exchange” — described as a platform to “reduce misunderstanding of US national security policies”.

The information exchange will convene for the first time at Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce on Tuesday, Washington said.

In a statement on the talks, the Commerce Department said that “Secretary Raimondo emphasized the importance of ensuring open lines of communication between the United States and China and took concrete steps to deliver on that goal”.

But Beijing painted a less rosy picture, saying Wang had raised “serious concerns” over Washington’s trade curbs on Chinese businesses.

Those included “US Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods, its semiconductor policies, restrictions of two-way investment, discriminatory subsidies, and sanctions on Chinese enterprises”, Beijing’s commerce ministry said.

Washington defends the policies as necessary to “de-risk” its supply chains.

But Wang warned they “run counter to market rules and the principle of fair competition, and will only harm the security and stability of the global industrial and supply chains”.

Raimondo is set to meet with vice premier He Lifeng and culture minister Hu Heping on Tuesday, and pay a courtesy visit to Premier Li Qiang.

She will then head to China’s economic powerhouse Shanghai, before leaving the country on Wednesday.

– ‘Healthy competition’ –

Raimondo is one of a number of senior US officials to visit China in recent months — part of an effort by Washington to improve its working relationship with its largest strategic rival.

Relations between the two countries have plummeted to some of their lowest levels in decades, with US trade curbs near the top of the list of disagreements.

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

The long-anticipated rules, expected to be implemented next year, target sectors such as 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.

And Raimondo on Monday told Chinese officials that while there was “no room to compromise or negotiate” on US national security, “the vast majority of our trade and investment relationship does not involve national security concerns”.

“We seek healthy competition with China. A growing Chinese economy that plays by the rules is in both of our interests,” she said.

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

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