Can Raimondo's visit stabilize China-U.S. trade ties?



On August 27, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo arrived in China for a four-day visit to discuss trade and technology issues and better manage economic differences. Her visit comes at the invitation of Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao, reflecting China's consistent support for high-level communication as well as measures to stabilize a highly consequential relationship.

Just days before Raimondo's trip, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., Xie Feng, held constructive talks and underlined support for U.S. actions to address China's legitimate trade and economic concerns. The U.S Department of Commerce's recent decision to remove over two dozen Chinese entities from its export-control "unverified list" has also been received as a conducive step towards stabilizing trade.

One of the principal objectives of Raimondo's visit is to promote closer U.S. business links in China. That objective demands principled U.S. departure from current and future unilateral export restrictions against China. Beijing has expressed its readiness to work together with Washington in areas of mutual interest, and there is a fair chance that both sides will succeed in finding commonalities to build upon instead of dwelling on differences.

The costs of trade restrictions and counterproductive foreign investment reviews are beginning to dawn on Washington, making it unsustainable for the U.S. to engage without addressing major irritants to the relationship. For this reason, Raimondo started her China trip, which could lay the groundwork for follow-up dialogue to bridge the communication gap and support a rebuilding of strategic trust between China and the U.S.

For instance, Raimondo will be tested for her intent to dial-back a possible expansion of more U.S. tech curbs against China. According to several U.S. media reports, including the New York Times, the Biden administration has been mulling these measures, and could issue them soon after Raimondo's return to Washington. Dialogue should address escalation risks.

Her four-day visit offers a major chance to rethink the counterproductive logic of U.S. tech curbs for a simple reason: it has brought undue damage on the world's most important economic relationship. But Raimondo being a practiced hand, she has indicated welcome support for cooperating with Beijing in key areas, vowed to maintain communication links, and is keen to dial-up America's business footprint.

To see those interests through, it is in Washington's interests to prevent the relationship from spiraling downward. That possibility has prompted key officials, including Raimondo, to touch-down in Beijing and start a constructive dialogue, making sure that a meaningful balance is in place to promote commercial priorities without targeting each other's legitimate interests.

As the present state of trade relations indicate, there is a dire need to give up protectionist trade measures and create an open market to facilitate cooperation. "China will continue to raise relevant economic and trade concerns with the U.S. and strive to create a fair and stable economic and trade environment," said Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesperson Shu Jueting recently.

Interestingly, Raimondo's visit will also make her the third member of the Biden Administration to visit since June. This frequency underlines positive U.S. intent to support high-level contacts with their Chinese counterparts, given that constant escalation is simply unsustainable. From weak global growth to critical trade and macroeconomic coordination, a range of international challenges are waiting for China and the U.S. to work together and find solutions.

As Ambassador Xie told Raimondo in the lead-up to her visit, both countries are "on the same planet and under the same blue sky. Since we are all in the same boat, no country can remain insulated, let alone seeking profits at the expense of others."