US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s Visit to China: Achievements & Prospects

By Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan | Gwadar Pro Sep 1, 2023

Editor's Note: The author is Executive Director of the Center for South Asia & International Studies (CSAIS) Islamabad and Regional Expert on China, BRI & CPEC. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.

The US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo ends her comprehensive visit to China during which lots of emerging problems and pending issues pertaining to bilateral trade, commerce, exports and investments were thoroughly discussed and agreed to resolve it through having close liaison/communication channels between two countries which sounds good.

Raimondo met with at least three senior Chinese officials, including Premier Li Qiang, Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao, and the Minister of Culture and Tourism Hu Heping, which vividly reflected the strategic importance of this visit to remove all obstacles and move towards a harmonious development path in the future. This also shows the firm belief of Chinese policymakers in promoting globalization and working together.

Undoubtedly, this visit achieved certain results. In order to improve bilateral trade relations, the two countries agreed to establish a new communication channel between the commercial departments.

The expectation to establish a new communication mechanism somewhat reflects Washington's positive intention to improve relations, but the US must match its words with deeds. China is concerned about US Section 301 tariffs, semiconductor policies and other harmful policies that directly or indirectly affect economic cooperation between the two countries. The US should make corresponding statements and avoid using the concept of national security to politicize trade.

It is good omen that according to Chinese Commerce Ministry, a working group consisting of Chinese and US business officials will be set up to seek solutions on specific commercial issues hurting the economies and business communities alike.

This would help both the nations to avoid escalation of tensions, maintain trading relations and allow both to settle disputes over economic issues through dialogue.

Raimondo repeatedly emphasized in meetings with different officials that the US seeks to compete with China rather than trying to completely decouple from China, which shows that the US has positive intentions in a certain sense. However, it is not difficult to imagine that this attitude is simply due to the realization that the US is simply unable to completely decouple from China and get rid of cooperation with the world's second largest economy. In addition, many complex financial policies in the US have disrupted world trade and supply chains, and have also caused the US to suffer from high inflation and economic recession. Under the current situation, the US urgently needs to establish stable trade relations with China, and Raimondo's visit shows that resolving these crises will be beneficial to both countries.

However, on the other hand, during the talks, Raimondo emphasized the US' commitment to take actions needed to "maintain national security," which raises questions about whether the US will continue to use the so-called "maintenance of national security" guise to suppress and sanction Chinese companies and individuals. However, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs still stated that China hopes that the US will implement its statement that it will not seek decoupling from China and create a good environment for the healthy development of economic and trade relations between the two countries. This reflects China's positive attitude towards dialogue and cooperation.

Previously, the US launched a chip war against China under the pretext of national security. This not only makes it difficult to continue bilateral cooperation, but also casts doubts on the sincerity of the US in developing bilateral relations. The visit demonstrated China's sincerity. Correspondingly, the US government should return to the correct track of cooperation and fulfill its promise. Win-win cooperation with China will also help the United States solve its own economic crisis.

In summary, the increasing diplomatic engagements of the US by sending  Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the climate adviser John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen clearly exhibits importance of sustainable dialogue to resolve commercial impediments between two economic superpowers. The US’s small steps to show goodwill by removing export control restrictions on over two dozen Chinese firms leading up to the meetings is a good omen for further resolving the economic disputes.

As China’s Ministry of Commerce pointed out in its statement, for the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, the best way to reduce risks is to return to the consensus reached by the two heads of state in Bali, so that Sino-US economic and trade relations can return to a healthy and stable development track and stabilize enterprises. It is expected to enhance the confidence of enterprises to carry out trade and investment cooperation.

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