Xi, Biden begin virtual meeting amid US’ softening rhetoric on possible tariff removal
Published: Nov 16, 2021 09:17 AM Updated: Nov 16, 2021 09:20 PM
China US Photo:IC

China US Photo:IC

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden have started a virtual meeting on Tuesday morning, where senior economic officials from both sides are also attending, suggesting that trade and economic topics will likely be covered at the closely watched meeting. 

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, also the chief of the Chinese side of the China-US comprehensive economic dialogue, is among the attendees of the meeting, according to a picture released by the Xinhua News Agency before the meeting started. On the US side, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are among the officials attending the meeting, according to online pictures. 

The virtual meeting, deemed as a historical junction in redefining the future of China-US relations, comes amid softening rhetoric from Washington over possible removal of punitive tariffs on some Chinese goods and skyrocketing inflation in the US that has left its consumers and businesses weeping.

Analysts said the meeting between top leaders of the world’s two largest economies underscores the eagerness of Biden to seek expanding ties with Beijing to ease US economic woes especially the US inflation that has derailed the economy and taken a toll on the administration’s public support. 

The two sides may discuss certain economic and trade issues of mutual concern, such as macroeconomic policy coordination, analysts said.

Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times that stable prices in China's exports could be critical for the US to maintain its inflation rate at a certain level. Analysts said that this could be one of the key reasons why Washington has been sending positive signals to create a good atmosphere for the meeting.  

“If the talks bear positive results in the economic areas, trade relations between China and the US might see less conflict and more of ‘healthy competition’ in the future,” Gao said.

He Weiwen, a former senior trade official and a member of the Executive Council of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times that talks between the two leaders might focus more on strategic issues. He also urged the US to remove tariffs, which are a violation of the WTO rules, and a move that is like “lifting a rock only to drop it on US own feet.”

Some departmental meetings may be held later to implement some follow-up issues based on the meeting’s result, analysts predicted.

“Consultations on tariffs might be arranged later on after the top-level meeting,” Zhou Mi, deputy director of the Institute of American and Oceania Studies of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce, told the Global Times.

A day ahead of the meeting, Yellen told CBS that removing tariffs imposed by the Trump administration to Chinese imports “would make some difference” on inflation and added that US trade representative Katherine Tai was “revisiting” the phase one trade agreement with Beijing.

In a letter addressed to US trade representatives Katherine Tai and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week, two dozen American business associations urged the Biden administration to remove tariffs and broaden the scope of import duty exemptions. 

In October, two rounds of trade talks between Chinese and US senior officials were held, with both Tai and Yellen having talked with Liu.  

The phase one trade agreement signed between China and the US is set to expire on December 31. Under the agreement signed in January 2020, China has pledged to increase purchases of US products within a timeframe of two years, while the US made the commitment to roll back tariffs on Chinese goods in phases.