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US Commerce Secretary Raimondo says stable relationship with China is ‘profoundly important’

Hong Kong

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said stable relations between Washington and Beijing are “profoundly important” as she kicked off a Monday meeting with her counterpart, Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao.

Raimondo’s trip to Beijing and Shanghai, which ends on Wednesday, follows recent visits from three other key Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Climate Envoy John Kerry.

“The economic relationship between the United States and China is one of the most significant in the world. We share over $700 billion of trade,” Raimondo said in the Chinese capital.

“It is profoundly important that we have a stable economic relationship, which is to the benefit of both of our countries. And in fact what the world expects of us. It’s a complicated relationship. It’s a challenging relationship. We will of course disagree on certain issues, but I believe that we can make progress if we are direct, open and practical,” she added.

Wang said Beijing was also ready to work with Washington, adding that bilateral economic relations were important not just to the two countries, but to the rest of the world.

Both officials expressed optimism, with Raimondo noting that their teams had worked together over the summer to set up “new information exchanges and working groups” that would pave the way for more engagement between both sides.

Raimondo added that she would not compromise or negotiate on any matters related to national security. But the vast majority of US-China trade was not related to national security, she said.

Wang agreed, saying he saw most trade between the two economies as “benign.”

Raimondo will be discussing US-China commercial ties, challenges faced by US businesses and areas for potential cooperation, according to a statement issued by the US Commerce Department ahead of her trip.

Experts believe Beijing will use the opportunity to lobby for the lifting of US export controls and other restrictions.

Washington extended an apparent olive branch to Beijing last week, with the Commerce Department announcing that it had removed export controls for 27 Chinese companies, just days before Raimondo’s visit. The agency said those firms had undergone successful checks by authorities to ensure their products were being used legitimately.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo meeting with China's Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao in Beijing on Monday, along with US Ambassador to China Nick Burns.

China’s Ministry of Commerce responded warmly to the move, calling it “conducive to the normal trade between Chinese and American companies.”

“It is entirely possible to find a solution that benefits companies on both sides,” the ministry said in a statement last week.

However, several hot-button issues continue to weigh on both sides.

Raimondo said Monday that the United States had taken steps to reduce risk in its supply chain and improve the country’s infrastructure.

The move is key to President Joe Biden’s economic strategy and “is not intended to hinder China’s economic progress,” she said. “We believe a strong Chinese economy is a good thing.”

The secretary’s comments came weeks after the White House announced restrictions on investments by US venture capital and private equity firms, as well as joint ventures, in Chinese artificial intelligence, quantum computing and semiconductors.

They also echo previous remarks by Treasury Secretary Yellen, who traveled to Beijing in July and said she wanted to allay “fears that we would do something that would have broad-based impacts on the Chinese economy.”

Raimondo is also expected to discuss the treatment of American companies in China amid a crackdown on international consulting firms under the grounds of national security and a recent expansion of China’s counterespionage law.

Her visit follows allegations by US officials in July that she had been the target of an email hack by China-based hackers.

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