Top U.S. and Chinese Commerce Officials Express Support for Easier Trade, but Deep Differences Remain

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and her Chinese counterpart expressed a desire to improve trade conditions on Monday, as Raimondo began a visit to Beijing aimed at warming chilly relations, but neither side appeared willing to make concessions on the other’s main demands.

Raimondo joined American officials including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in July who have visited China in the past three months. They expressed optimism about improving communication but have announced no progress on technology, security, human rights and other disputes that have plunged relations to their lowest level in decades.

For its part, Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government wants to revive foreign investor interest in China as it tries to reverse a deepening economic slump.

Beijing is ready to work together to “foster a more favorable policy environment for stronger cooperation” and “bolster bilateral trade and investment,” Commerce Minister Wang Wentao told Raimondo. Wang gave no details of possible initiatives.

Raimondo said the two sides are working on establishing “new information exchanges” for “more consistent engagement.”

“It is profoundly important that we have a stable economic relationship,” she said. “I believe that we can make progress if we are direct, open and practical.”

Beijing broke off dialogue with Washington on military, climate and other issues in August 2022 in retaliation for a visit to Taiwan by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the House of Representatives. The mainland’s ruling Communist Party claims the self-ruled island democracy as part of its territory and objects to foreign governments having contact with it.

The state press has given positive coverage to the American visits to Beijing, but China has given no indication it might change trade, strategic, market access and other policies that irk Washington and its Asian neighbors.

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