The United States and China on Monday agreed to hold regular talks on trade issues and restrictions on access to advanced technology. It’s the latest move this summer to ease tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
The announcement came during a visit to Beijing by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who is meeting with senior Chinese officials in Beijing and Shanghai this week.
The agreement to hold regular talks is the latest step in restoring strained ties between the two countries, a process that had already begun during three trips in the past decade by top American officials: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and John Kerry, the President’s climate officer.
“I think it is a very good sign that we have agreed on a concrete dialogue and I would say that this is more than just nebulous promises to continue talks, it is an official channel,” Ms. Raimondo said in an interview after four hours of negotiations with China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao.
Bilateral talks on trade, technology and other economic issues were once the norm between the United States and China, but in recent years those talks have atrophied. China halted eight bilateral discussion groups a year ago in retaliation for a visit to Taiwan by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who was Speaker of the House at the time.
The flight of a Chinese spy balloon, which flew over the United States and was then shot down over the Atlantic last winter, only deepened divisions between China and the United States and led to Mr Blinken initially canceling a trip to Beijing.
But ties are beginning to thaw as both nations, whose economies are linked, have opened the door for diplomatic ties to resume.
Ms. Raimondo said Monday night that she had a “frank” and “pragmatic” conversation with Mr. Wang and that she expressed the concerns of the American business community about recent Chinese actions against Intel and Micron Technology, two semiconductor companies in the United States Conditions. The Chinese government this summer thwarted a major acquisition planned by Intel and blocked the sale of Micron in China.
She said two separate dialogues would be set up: One would be a working group composed of company representatives that would focus on commercial issues. The other would be a government exchange of information on export controls.
Ms Raimondo also said she and China’s Commerce Minister have agreed to meet at least once a year.
She said the new Technology Controls Dialogue was established to share more information about US export restrictions on advanced technology, but said it does not mean the United States will compromise on national security issues. The first meeting of the export control group will take place in Beijing on Tuesday.
Some Republicans have criticized the idea of creating a working group, calling it “inappropriate” for the Biden administration to discuss national security policy with China.
Ms Raimondo said she spoke to nearly 150 business leaders in preparation for her trip and they gave her a common message: we need more channels of communication.
“A growing Chinese economy that abides by the rules is in all of our interests,” she said.
Michael Hart, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, also welcomed the bilateral talks. “There wasn’t enough interaction between governments,” he said.
He added that this summer there has been a shift in direction from Chinese officials and an increased willingness to talk.
“Before, every meeting I went to was like, ‘It’s all America’s fault,’ for the first five minutes,” Mr. Hart said. “It’s definitely toned down now, government officials understand the importance of US-China trade.”