New round of China-US economic talks at start of 2024 sends positive signals for troubled world
Published: Feb 06, 2024 09:16 PM
The third China-US Economic Working Group meeting is held from February 5 to 6, 2024 in Beijing. Photo: Ministry of Finance

The third China-US Economic Working Group meeting is held from February 5 to 6, 2024 in Beijing. Photo: Ministry of Finance

Chinese and US officials held another round of talks in Beijing on Monday and Tuesday as part of their Economic Working Group established last year, adding to growing interactions since the beginning of 2024 between officials of the world's two biggest economies in areas such as financial and anti-drug cooperation.

The increasingly frequent meetings in the new year provide further positive signals that both sides of the Pacific Ocean are striving to build on major signs of progress made in 2023, including a fruitful leaders' summit in the US city of San Francisco, to stabilize bilateral ties, experts said.

This positive trend, despite lingering disputes, offers much-needed reassurance for businesses of the two countries as well as the international community amid rising global challenges, they noted.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Chinese Ministry of Finance (MOF) said that the third China-US Economic Working Group meeting was held on Monday and Tuesday in Beijing, where they had in-depth, candid, pragmatic and constructive exchanges on the macroeconomic situation and policies, G20 financial cooperation, debt of developing countries, industrial policies and other issues.

During the meeting, the Chinese side expressed its concerns about additional US tariffs imposed on Chinese goods, restrictions against China on two-way investment, and sanctions that suppress Chinese enterprises, the MOF said, adding that the two sides agreed to continue talks.

Also on Tuesday, Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng met with US Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs Jay Shambaugh, who was in Beijing to attend the third meeting of the China-US Economic Working Group. He urged the both sides to continue to make good use of the working group to deepen exchanges and cooperation, and stabilize and develop China-US economic ties.
This was the third meeting of the China-US Economic Working Group,which was set up in September 2023following an agreement reached by Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. It was the first meeting in 2024. Chinese and US officials held the second meeting in San Francisco in November 2023, where a leaders' summit significantly helped boost interactions between the two countries.

"We are seeing a relatively positive trend, as both sides continue talks," Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who closely follows China-US trade issues, told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that there have been increased interactions in 2024.

"It is China's consistent principle that both sides should address issues through talks and consultations, and it's comforting to see that the Americans are also realizing that," said Gao.

Pointing to increased interactions between Chinese and US officials, Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen on Tuesday held a video call with Marisa Lago, US Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

Prior to the meeting of the Economic Working Group on Monday and Tuesday, Chinese and US officials held the third meeting of the Financial Working Group, which was also established in September 2023, in Beijing on January 18 and 19, during which the two sides had professional, pragmatic, candid and constructive discussions on issues related to the stability of their currencies, financial markets and other areas.

Pointing to expanding interactions between Chinese and US officials in 2024, beyond the economic and financial fields, Chinese and US officials also held talks at the end of January and inaugurated the China-US Counternarcotics Working Group, which focused on, among other things, jointly stemming the production of ingredients for the drug fentanyl.

Liu Ying, a research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, said that engagements between China and the US are not just positive signals for both economies but also for the international community as a whole, because cooperation between the world's two biggest economies could greatly boost global economic development and help address rising global challenges and risks.

"It is hoped that such talks will lead both countries to meet each other halfway and continuously promote normal China-US economic and trade cooperation and people-to-people exchanges," Liu told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"The key issue is that the US must stop unreasonable restrictions on people-to-people and other exchanges."

Major disputes remain between the two countries. China has long expressed opposition to additional US tariffs, crackdowns on Chinese businesses, restrictions on sales of high-tech components as well as discriminatory treatment of Chinese citizens. Meanwhile, the US has made what Chinese officials and experts said are baseless accusations against China, including "non-market" policies.

Reuters said that during the Economic Working Group meeting, the US emphasis was on "China's industrial subsidies."

"In fact, the US is the one that has been openly handing out unfair subsidies to businesses through policies such as the so-called CHIPS and Science Act," Huo Jianguo, vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that all countries have their own industrial policies and the basic principle should be that they are not "discriminatory against others."

Huo further noted that while there remain many differences between China and the US, "talks are good to eliminate misunderstandings" and help stabilize bilateral ties.

The US has so far shown increasing interest in continuing talks with China. The meeting of the Economic Working Group in Beijing could pave the way for Yellen's planned visit to China this year, according to the Voice of America on Tuesday. Yellen reportedly said in December 2023 that she was aiming to visit China in the first half of 2024.