July 13, 2024

Yellen to discuss US-China ties, American firms’ worries

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US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen begins a full day of meetings in Beijing on Friday, with strained US-China ties, American businesses’ concerns and the global economic outlook on her agenda.

Yellen’s four-day trip marks her first to China as Treasury chief, as Washington seeks to steady the tense relationship between the world’s top two economies while laying the groundwork for greater communication.

In recent years, Washington and Beijing have traded barbs over a host of issues including export controls, human rights and national security.

A Treasury official told reporters Thursday that the United States does not expect specific policy breakthroughs over the next few days, but hopes for frank and productive conversations that can pave the way for future talks.

On Friday, Yellen is due to meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the Great Hall of the People, where she will have a chance to discuss the economic relationship, raise concerns and find opportunities for collaboration, the official added.

She will also meet her former counterpart, ex-vice premier Liu He, with whom she is set to trade views on the status of the US and Chinese economies, as well as on the international outlook.

Yellen is expected to see representatives of American firms in China as well, at a session hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce.

This will allow her to hear about the challenges that US companies face while doing business in China, and she is expected to stress the concept of “healthy economic competition” that involves addressing what Washington deems unfair practices.

These include barriers to market access and actions targeting US firms.

  • ‘We’re talking’ –

In a tweet after arriving in Beijing on Thursday, Yellen said that although the United States would protect its national security when needed, “this trip presents an opportunity to communicate and avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding”.

The Treasury official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity Thursday noted: “Especially if they’re things that we may disagree about, it’s even more important that we’re talking.”

But it may not be an easy job to persuade Chinese officials that the United States’ actions — such as tightened export curbs on high-end semiconductors — are aimed at safeguarding national security and not at gaining an economic advantage over China.

China has been stepping up its response to US chip curbs and, ahead of Yellen’s trip, unveiled new export controls on metals key to semiconductor manufacturing.

Some analysts believe the move was targeted at countries that recently limited chip exports to China following requests from Washington.

Underscoring the further challenges Yellen could face, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US administration is mulling restricting Chinese firms’ access to US cloud-computing services provided by companies such as Amazon and Microsoft.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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