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US Treasury Secretary Yellen holds talks on US-China ties, concerns of American firms

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US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen embarks on a significant four-day trip to Beijing, where she will engage in a series of meetings to address strained US-China relations, concerns of American businesses, and the global economic outlook. As Yellen’s first visit to China as Treasury chief, her objective is to stabilize the tense relationship between the world’s top two economies while establishing a foundation for improved communication.

Over the past years, Washington and Beijing have engaged in heated disputes encompassing various issues, including export controls, human rights, and national security. A Treasury official stated on Thursday that specific policy breakthroughs are not expected during the next few days. However, the United States anticipates candid and productive discussions that will pave the way for future talks.

On Friday, Yellen is scheduled to meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the Great Hall of the People. During this meeting, she will have an opportunity to address the economic relationship, express concerns, and explore potential areas of collaboration. Additionally, Yellen will engage with her former counterpart, former vice premier Liu He, with whom she will exchange perspectives on the current state of the US and Chinese economies, as well as the global economic landscape.

Moreover, Yellen is set to meet representatives of American companies operating in China, at a session organized by the American Chamber of Commerce. This gathering will enable her to listen to the challenges faced by US firms conducting business in China. Yellen is expected to emphasize the importance of “healthy economic competition,” which involves tackling what Washington considers to be unfair practices. These include barriers to market access and actions that specifically target American companies.

In a tweet upon her arrival in Beijing on Thursday, Yellen stated that while the United States would safeguard its national security when necessary, the trip offered an opportunity for effective communication to avoid misunderstandings. The anonymous Treasury official, speaking to reporters on Thursday, underscored the importance of dialogue, especially when addressing areas of disagreement.

However, persuading Chinese officials that US actions, such as tightened export restrictions on advanced semiconductors, are aimed at national security rather than gaining an economic advantage over China may prove challenging. China has responded to US chip curbs by implementing new export controls on metals crucial for semiconductor manufacturing, a move believed to be targeted at countries that recently limited chip exports to China at Washington’s request.

Highlighting additional obstacles Yellen may encounter, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US administration is contemplating restrictions on Chinese firms’ access to US cloud-computing services provided by companies like Amazon and Microsoft.

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