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US and China trade officials meet in Thailand, resuming dialogue on economic policies

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The session built on the 3½-hour meeting on Monday between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden in Bali, Indonesia, at which both sides urged a restoration of talks, particularly on coordinating macroeconomic policies, economic ties and trade.

“Both parties agreed to continue to communicate,” added the Chinese statement, noting that Wang and Tai also discussed multilateral and regional economic and trade issues.

Xi, Biden discuss Taiwan and Xinjiang in first in-person meeting

03:33

Xi, Biden discuss Taiwan and Xinjiang in first in-person meeting

The USTR office confirmed the meeting, adding that the two “discussed bilateral trade, and also emphasised the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between the United States and the People’s Republic of China”.

Neither statement mentioned the trade-war tariffs which Washington and Beijing levied on each other during the Donald Trump administration.

The meeting on Friday marked the first discussion between the US and China’s leading trade officials since a virtual conference in October 2021 between Tai and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, who has led China’s negotiations in the US-China trade talks.

With regard to broader economic dialogues, the meeting Friday was also the first since Liu’s telephone conversation with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen four months ago.

Liu, Xi’s right-hand man of Xi on economic policies and foreign trade relations, is expected to step down in March.

The meeting on Friday also appeared to be the first between Tai and Wang since they took office, Tai in early 2021, Wang in late 2020.

The discussion showed that both sides were serious about reopening channels of engagement, Wendy Cutler, vice-president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said.

“But talking is one thing. The real question is whether there are substantive areas where progress can be made,” said Cutler, a former USTR official.

“The US 2023 Apec host year provides an important opportunity for Washington and Beijing to find areas of common interest to pursue, including climate and trade, and preventing the next pandemic.”

“The real question is whether there are substantive areas where progress can be made,” Wendy Cutler, vice-president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said. Photo: Asia Society

“The real question is whether there are substantive areas where progress can be made,” Wendy Cutler, vice-president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said. Photo: Asia Society

The trade officials’ meeting showed that China was open now to more contacts with the US and more such communications were expected to come, according to Robert Sutter, a veteran China expert and a professor at George Washington University.

“It doesn’t change any issues, the issues are the same, but communications are going to be maintained to avoid confrontation and of course avoid military conflict,” Sutter said.

“This seems to be the new pattern that came out of the [Biden-Xi] summit.”

US-China trade relations are still strained, with the nations in a fierce technology rivalry; Washington has stepped up restrictions on doing business with Beijing in hi-tech areas like semiconductors.

And while Biden took office last year, hundreds of billion dollars worth of Trump-era punitive duties on Chinese products as well as many retaliatory levies by Beijing on American goods remain in place.

The Biden administration has been under increasing pressure from US businesses to lower the tariffs as one way to ease inflation.

But Tai suggested in September that the tariffs would not be coming down until Beijing adopted more market-oriented trade and economic principles.

During their meeting on Monday, Biden raised concerns with Xi about China’s non-market economic practices, according to the White House.

Xi criticised the US for starting a trade and technology war, pushing for decoupling and severing supply chains, saying those actions run counter to the principles of market economy and undermine international trade rules.

“Such attempts serve no one’s interests,” he was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Last month, China’s exports to the US declined 12.6 per cent from a year earlier to US$47 billion, while imports from the US dropped by 1.5 per cent to US$12.8 billion, according to Chinese customs data.

China’s trade surplus with the US narrowed by 16 per cent year-over-year to US$34.2 billion last month.

On Wednesday, China’s top economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), met with a delegation of US business representatives led by Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council.

The discussions involved economic and trade cooperation between the two nations, further opening up by China, and the country’s macroeconomic outlook, among other issues, the NDRC said in a statement.

The news is published by EMEA Tribune & SCMP210520-twitter-verified-cs-70cdee.jpg (1500×750)

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