Meeting between China's commerce minister and US trade representative sends positive signals, while US urged to keep commitments: experts
Published: May 27, 2023 04:00 PM
Photo: A screenshot of Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao meeting with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai from MOFCOM's website

Photo: A screenshot of Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao meeting with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai from MOFCOM's website

China's Minister of Commerce (MOFCOM) Wang Wentao met with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Friday, as both sides held "candid, pragmatic and in-depth" discussions on China-US economic and trade relations along with regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest, the ministry said on Saturday.

The Chinese side expressed concerns on key issues, including the US economic and trade policies toward China, Taiwan-related topics in the economic and trade field, the Indo-Pacific economic framework and Section 301 tariffs, MOFCOM said in a statement, stressing that both sides agreed to maintain communication.

Experts noted that the in-person meeting, followed by Wang's talk with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in Washington while attending the 2023 APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting in Detroit, signaling positive signs under the important consensus reached by the two heads of state in Bali, Indonesia last year, while urging the US to fulfill its commitments with consistent actions.

The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) also released a readout on Friday, stressing that Tai discussed the importance of the US-China trade relationship in the global economy and the need for both sides to continue engaging with one another.

Tai emphasized the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between the US and China and building on the engagement between two top leaders in Bali, Indonesia in November 2022, according to the readout.

While both sides clearly expressed concerns regarding key issues, the in-person talks sent a positive signal, Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Saturday. Gao meanwhile noted that the Chinese side has repeatedly put forward evidence, showing that some of the concerns expressed by the US side are not factually based.

According to the two US readouts released by the departments, Tai and Raimondo expressed their concerns about the actions taken by Chinese authorities against US companies operating in China.

Experts stressed that actions taken by China against some US consultancy firms and a cybersecurity review by regulators linked to Micron's products sold in China have been carried out in accordance with the law and are based on facts.

During a meeting held earlier this week between Wang and US business representatives, Wang highlighted that China will continue to welcome US companies to develop in China and achieve win-win results based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.

Meanwhile, Gao called the US to stop taking actions that violate its commitment, as examples represented by US engaging in so-called "trade initiative" talks with the Taiwan island.

Tai announced that the US and Taiwan region had concluded negotiations on a so-called "21st Century Trade Initiative," according to a statement from the USTR on May 18. Both the MOFCOM and China's Foreign Ministry slammed the move.

Tai at the same time cited "the need to address the critical imbalances caused by China's state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade policy," according to the USTR readout.

China and the US should cooperate on economic and trade issues without interfering in each other's internal affairs, and the bilateral trade policies should be established under the principle of global fair competition, Dong Shaopeng, a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Saturday.

Dong added the US can't change the advantage of China's state-owned enterprises in being capable of coordinating resources by suppressing them, adding that China has been competing fairly in the market.

As for the US' economic and trade policies toward China, especially ones on semiconductors and export controls, Dong added that the damage to industrial chains will not only impact China and the global industry, but also will harm the US which may only derive short-term benefit.

The two major meetings between China's commerce minister Wang and his US counterparts came following the recent resumption of high-level engagements between China and the US after the US shot down an unmanned Chinese civilian airship in February, driving the bilateral relations to a new low. China's top diplomat Wang Yi and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met in Vienna and held "candid, in-depth, substantive and constructive" talks for more than 10 hours earlier this month.