U.S. commerce secretary to visit China amid efforts to stabilize relations

Aug 22, 2023, 3:56 AM

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo will meet with Chinese officials and American business leaders next week amid efforts to stabilize relations that have sunk to historic lows.

Raimondo’s Aug. 27-30 visit to Beijing and Shanghai aims for “constructive discussions on issues relating to the U.S.-China commercial relationship, challenges faced by U.S. businesses, and areas for potential cooperation,” the Commerce Department said in a news release posted on its website Tuesday.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said the visit came at the invitation of Minister Wang Wentao but gave no other details.

Raimondo’s visit follows the imposition of foreign investment controls by her agency that have stung numerous Chinese companies.

Raimondo last met with Wang in Washington in May to discuss trade issues. Trade tensions have only ramped up since then.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Aug. 9 to impose blocks and regulations on U.S. high-tech investment in China, reflecting the intensifying competition between the world’s two largest economies.

The order covers advanced computer chips, micro electronics, quantum information technologies and artificial intelligence.

Senior administration officials said the effort is narrow in scope and related more to national security than economic interests. It seeks to blunt China’s ability to use U.S. investments to upgrade its military capabilities, while also preserving broader levels of trade that are vital for both nations’ economies.

China says it is assessing Biden’s order and will “take the necessary response measures based on the results of the assessment.”

The United States and China are increasingly locked in a geopolitical competition, at odds over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, human rights, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its threat to attack the self-governing island democracy of Taiwan.

However, given the importance of trade with the U.S., and with its economic growth sliding to 0.8% for the three months ending in June, China appears willing to set aside political differences in order to engage on economic issues.

Biden officials have insisted that they have no interest in economic “decoupling” from China. Yet, the administration also has limited the export of advanced computer chips and retained the expanded tariffs set up by former President Donald Trump.

China has meanwhile engaged in crackdowns on foreign companies, prompting a loss of confidence and the shifting of investment plans by global companies to other countries.

Calls by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and others for more economic self-reliance have left investors uneasy about their future in the state-dominated economy.

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U.S. commerce secretary to visit China amid efforts to stabilize relations