Updated Aug 28, 2023, 7:02am EDT

U.S. Commerce secretary seeks ‘stable’ economic relationship with China

Andy Wong/Pool via REUTERS

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Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo huddled with her Chinese counterpart, Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, in the first meeting of her high-stakes visit to Beijing meant to improve commercial ties and help better manage tensions between the U.S. and China over technology restrictions.

In opening remarks on Monday, Raimondo told Wang it was “profoundly important” for the two countries to have “a stable economic relationship.” She also alluded to efforts to set up new working groups to improve communication between their teams, but said there would be “no room to compromise or negotiate” on restrictions the U.S. has imposed for national security reasons. Wang told her China was prepared to help “foster a more favorable policy environment” for U.S. and Chinese businesses.

In a readout, the Commerce Department said the two agreed to meet in-person at least once annually, set up a working group on commercial issues, launch an “export control enforcement information exchange,” and direct discussions on protecting trade secrets.

As an example of a healthy potential area of trade, Raimondo highlighted beauty and personal care products at an event later on. “The plan and the hope is that our commercial relationship, if done right, can stabilize the political relationship, and this is one small example of that,” she said.

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On a call with reporters ahead of the trip, Raimondo said she hoped to speak with Chinese officials about ways to improve bilateral commercial ties, while also raising thornier issues like China’s unfair trade practices and U.S. curbs on investments in — and exports of — certain critical technologies that have angered Beijing.

“I’m not going to pull my punches,” Raimondo said. “But I intend to be practical.” She named travel and tourism as one area where her team has seen success in improving the commercial relationship, citing the recent move by China to lift restrictions on group travel to the U.S. and other countries.

Raimondo, who said she prepared for the visit by speaking with business and labor leaders, also said she wanted to improve communication between her team and the Chinese, like other Cabinet officials have been trying to do (it hasn’t been easy).