Chinese commerce minister's planned visit to US lifts trade prospects, but 'result depends on sincerity of US'
Published: May 19, 2023 08:46 PM
China-US relationship. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

China-US relationship. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The trade chiefs of China and the US are resuming contacts, with China's commerce minister scheduled to meet next week with his US counterpart and Washington's top trade officials, a latest sign showing that the two largest economies in the world are trying to get back to a normal trade track.  

However, Chinese experts are urging the US to "stand higher and see farther," as the US agreed on Taiwan island trade terms on the same day, casting a shadow over the trade talks. Chinese experts said that whether the China-US meetings can achieve concrete results would depend on the sincerity of the US.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said China's Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao will meet with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in Washington and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ministerial meeting in Detroit, according to Reuters on Thursday. 

Liu Pengyu, the Chinese embassy spokesperson in Washington, said that Beijing is open to communication at all levels with the US but only on the basis of mutual respect, Reuters said.

The offline meeting shows that the contacts between the trade delegates of the two countries have resulted in consensus on some specific areas and will bring more confidence to the market, Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Friday. 

Currently, there are some voices in the US saying that the additional tariffs on China imposed by the Trump administration violated the laws of the US, and also put bilateral trade in a state of tension. "It will be a positive sign for both countries' trade if there can be some results in terms of tariffs this time," Gao said. 

However, the US and Taiwan agreed on the so-called first stage of a bilateral trade initiative on Thursday, less than a year after negotiations began

The initial agreement said it will streamline customs procedures, reduce wait times for trucks and vessels and improve regulations.

Although China and the US have a certain degree of willingness to strengthen cooperation, the tricks played by US departments regarding trade with Taiwan island fully expose the internal inconsistency of US policy toward China, Gao said. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry also expressed dissatisfaction on the issue, and urged the US not to use the name of economy and trade to send any wrong signals to the "Taiwan independence" separatist forces. 

The US actions seriously violated the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communiqués, and violated the commitment made by the US to only maintain unofficial relations with Taiwan, said Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry on Friday. 

Recently, Washington has expressed its desire to hold high-level talks with China.

Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, met US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on May 11, and the two sides held discussions on removing obstacles to China-US relations and stabilizing the relationship, according to the Xinhua News Agency. 

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang met with US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns on May 8 in Beijing, stating that the top priority is to stabilize China-US relations, avoid a downward spiral, and prevent accidents between the two major countries.

Reuters also reported that Blinken, Raimondo, and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have all expressed interest in visiting China.

After the balloon incident in February this year, it is necessary for China and the US to gradually restore communication, He Weiwen, former economic and commercial counsellor in the Chinese consulates general in San Francisco and New York, told the Global Times on Friday. 

It is expected that next week's meetings will focus on managing differences, reducing misjudgments, and seeking possible cooperation, He said, adding that he believes the two sides may discuss issues including tariffs and US restrictions on China's high-tech fields.

"Trade cooperation is still the ballast of China-US relations," He said. Although the US government adheres to the Cold War mentality in its China policy, US businesspeople do not want to "decouple" from China. There is still room for China and the US to strengthen cooperation in fields such as medicine and new energy, He added. 

According to data released by the General Administration of Customs, bilateral trade in the first quarter of this year was $161.59 billion, a year-on-year decrease of 13.1 percent.

Some experts said that to what extent the China-US communication channels between senior officials can fully recover remains in question, as Washington is still trying to force its allies to join its containment strategy against China via platforms like the G7 Summit, and the Biden administration is yet to demonstrate concrete sincerity in stopping its provocation on the Taiwan question. All of these make observers remain cautious in making predictions on the recovery of China-US relations. 

Apart from the meeting between senior officials in the field of trade, whether the defense chiefs of the two countries meet in the Shangri-La Dialogue next month will also be key in observing the development of the next stage of bilateral ties, analysts said.