By David Shepardson
BEIJING (Reuters) -U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo discussed concerns about restrictions on American businesses including Intel and Micron Technology with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao on Monday in a meeting where the two countries also agreed to start exchanging information on export controls.
The pair also discussed China's recent curbs on gallium and germanium exports in wide-ranging and candid talks that lasted more than two hours, followed by a two-hour lunch, according to a brief comments from Raimondo and the Commerce Department.
Raimondo wants to address concerns from U.S. businesses that are having difficulties operating in China. "We're delivering. We will have that formal communication," she said in a meeting with business officials.
She is the latest Biden administration official to travel to Beijing in an effort to strengthen communications, particularly over the economy and defense, as the economic friction between the world's two largest economies threatens to shake business relationships.
Raimondo told reporters that she had discussed concerns over China's effective ban on purchases of Micron memory chips with her Chinese counterpart.
Shares of Micron closed up 2.5% and Intel rose 1.1% after the news, which was first reported by Reuters.
Raimondo's visit, which follows recent visits by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is being closely watched in Washington by Republican China hawks who want President Joe Biden to take a more aggressive stance toward China.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul criticised the new working groups, calling the administration's efforts "at best naive, but also dangerous." He added that China should be treated as "an adversary who will stop at nothing to harm our national security and spread its malign authoritarianism around the globe."
As part of the discussions, Washington and Beijing also agreed to a new formal working group on commercial issues as well as the informational exchange on export control enforcement, the U.S. Commerce Department said.
The launch of the exchange would provide a "platform to reduce misunderstandings of U.S. national security policies," Raimondo said, adding: "We are not compromising or negotiating on matters of national security. Period."
The first in-person meeting of the export control information exchange will be led on the U.S. side by Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew Axelrod at the Ministry of Commerce, in Beijing, on Tuesday, Raimondo added. A senior official said the exchange will meet at least yearly and emphasized it is not a policy dialogue but an effort for both sides to answer questions about how export controls work.
"We're not negotiating what our policies are going to be," the official added.
China has criticized U.S. efforts to block China's access to advanced semiconductors through export controls, but Raimondo has said those are not open for debate.
The White House this month moved to start prohibiting some U.S. investment in sensitive technologies in China and plans to soon finalize sweeping export restrictions on advanced semiconductors adopted in October.
Earlier this year, Raimondo said more than 200 Chinese companies had been put on a U.S. export control list and has repeatedly said she was not hesitant to use the power as necessary.
The new commercial issues working group will bring together U.S. and Chinese government officials and private sector representatives "to seek solutions on trade and investment issues and to advance U.S. commercial interests in China," Commerce said in a statement following the two officials' meeting.
The working group will meet twice annually at the vice minister level, with the United States hosting the first meeting in early 2024.
The United States and China also agreed to convene subject matter experts from both sides for technical discussions "regarding strengthening the protection of trade secrets and confidential business information," Raimondo said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in BeijingAdditional writing by Susan Heavey in WashingtonEditing by Chris Sanders, Mike Harrison and Matthew Lewis)