Concerns surrounding China’s “unfair and market-distorting industrial policies” and the “need to level the playing field” for American companies in the country were raised during Thursday’s latest round of trade talks, according to the US Department of Commerce.
China confirmed Commerce Minister Wang Wentao spoke with his American counterpart Gina Raimondo on Thursday, with the talks described as a “candid and pragmatic exchange of views”. China’s statement also said the talks took place at the request of Raimondo.
Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng refused to provide any details of the topics discussed, while the US Department of Commerce did not immediately release a statement about the talks between Wang and Raimondo.
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“Secretary Raimondo discussed the Biden-Harris Administration’s focus on economic policies benefiting American workers and expressed US concerns, including China’s unfair and market-distorting industrial policies, the need to level the playing field for US companies in China, and the importance of protecting US technology from unauthorised users,” said the statement which was eventually released on Thursday morning in Washington.
“Secretary Raimondo noted that she looks forward to future discussions with Minister Wang on these issues,” added the statement which referred to the call as “introductory”.
Liu and Tai held a “candid and constructive” exchange on May 27, which was the first time top trade negotiators from China and the US had held talks since Joe Biden entered the White House. Then, on June 2, Liu also had “candid” exchanges on issues of concern with Yellen.
The latest talks follow the White House having announced on Tuesday that the Biden administration will establish a trade strike force, led by Tai, to halt the “hollowing out” of American industry and the erosion of critical supply chains for products such as semiconductors and medicines.
The measures were contained in a 255-page review released on the same day the US Senate passed a sweeping US$250 billion bill to boost US competitiveness in the face of mounting geopolitical tension with China.
The meeting between Liu and Tai had represented an overdue call between the two sides’ top trade negotiators, with the last such talks taking place in August during Donald Trump’s presidency.
The phase-one trade deal, which was signed in January 2020 and took effect a month later, calls for top-level contact every six months.
The latest talks also took place hours before China passed an anti-sanctions law, which provides legal backing for Beijing’s measures to counter foreign sanctions.
In a speech on Thursday in Washington, Tai said the US was “working with allies to make our supply chains less vulnerable and more resilient”.
These talks will give us a chance, first and foremost, to champion the rights and interests of our workers in those industries, while also creating new standards to combat the harmful industrial policies of China and other countries that undermine our ability to compete
“By working with allied democracies on trade enforcement, we will more effectively respond to the policies of autocratic, non-market economies that hurt our ability to compete. We will increase our leverage so that we can achieve more for American workers,” she told an American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations town hall where Tai discussed the Biden-Harris administration’s “pursuit of a worker-centred trade policy”.
“A worker-centred trade policy means addressing the damage that US workers and industries have sustained from competing with trading partners that do not allow workers to exercise their internationally recognised labour rights.
“Together with our allies, we must create high-standard trade agreements that empower workers and prevent other countries from violating labour rights to gain an unfair advantage in the global market. And we must aggressively enforce them.”
Next week, Tai will also join US President Joe Biden in Brussels for meetings with European counterparts.
“These talks will give us a chance, first and foremost, to champion the rights and interests of our workers in those industries, while also creating new standards to combat the harmful industrial policies of China and other countries that undermine our ability to compete,” she added.
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