China ‘open’ to visit by US commerce chief, renews call for Washington to stop crackdowns
Published: Jul 13, 2023 10:44 PM Updated: Jul 13, 2023 08:34 PM
China US trade

China US trade

China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said on Thursday that it holds an open and welcoming attitude toward a potential visit by US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, in the latest sign of growing official bilateral exchanges, but the ministry reiterated that the US must stop crackdowns on China.

Increased exchanges between Chinese and US officials come at a critical time, as Chinese official data showed on Thursday that bilateral trade tumbled in the first half of 2023. Chinese analysts said that the decline was due in large part to the domestic situation in the US as well as trade restrictions, urging the US side to address China's major concerns in order to stabilize bilateral trade.

Asked about a potential visit by Raimondo at a press conference on Thursday, Shu Jueting, a spokesperson for the MOFCOM, said that China holds an open and welcoming attitude and is in talks with the US side over the matter. 

"China will continue to be committed to addressing mutual concerns in the economic and trade fields through dialogue and communication, and to promoting constructive and practical cooperation," Shu said, without elaborating.

If takes place, Raimondo's visit would add to growing official exchanges between the two countries, including in the economic and trade fields. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen paid a four-day visit to China ending on July 9, during which the two sides held what they called candid and constructive talks. 

Separately, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry is scheduled to visit China from July 16 to 19, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited China in June. On Thursday, Chinese senior diplomat Wang Yi also met Blinken in Jakarta on Thursday. The potential visit also follows a meeting between Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao and Raimondo in Washington in May.  

"If the Chinese side feels [Raimondo's visit] can be carried out, it means that the exchanges of senior Chinese and US officials are moving forward, which is a positive trend. It is good progress to sit down and talk whenever possible," Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Gao said that issues such as US sanctions and additional tariffs on Chinese goods cannot be expected to be addressed instantly. 

"This is unrealistic, but it is good to take small steps through increased meetings and talks, and small changes can amount to big changes,." he said.

Gao noted that the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, which oversees sanctions against Chinese firms, holds some "chips" in talks, but the US Trade Representative's office holds more power in terms of tariffs and other sanctions against China.    

Shu said on Thursday that US sanctions and blacklists have seriously hurt the legitimate interests of firms and urged the US to "immediately stop baseless crackdowns on Chinese firms, cancel unilateral sanctions on Chinese firms and earnestly inject positive energy into China-US economic and trade cooperation."

The damage was apparently reflected in declining bilateral trade. In the first half of 2023, bilateral trade came in at 2.25 trillion yuan ($314 billion), down 8.4 percent year-on-year, data from China's General Administration of Customs showed on Thursday.

In June alone, China's trade with the US tumbled 16.1 percent in yuan-denominated terms, expanding the fall of 10.2 percent in May, according to the calculations of the Global Times based on the customs data. 

China's exports to the US stood at 297.27 billion yuan last month, down 2 percent from a year earlier but up a slight 1.8 percent from May.

Bilateral trade has contracted for several consecutive months, mainly due to  the US domestic situation, Wang Qing, chief macroeconomic analyst at Golden Credit Rating International, told the Global Times on Thursday. "Tightening US monetary policy has an obvious constraint on the demand side, coupled with the banking crisis that could further drag on the economy," Wang noted.

US tariffs on some Chinese goods that were imposed during the Trump administration are causing self-inflicted harm to US consumers, Liu Ying, a research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"More exchanges and communication between high-level officials are expected, which will inject a positive force into bilateral ties and revive more trade and economic activities," Liu noted.

While experts hailed the positive momentum in bilateral exchanges, they also urged the US to take concrete actions to show sincerity in addressing China's main concerns and stabilizing bilateral trade.