By David Shepardson
BEIJING (Reuters) -U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo opened talks with Chinese government officials on Monday, saying it is “profoundly important” for the world’s two largest economies to have a stable economic relationship.
Raimondo is looking to boost business ties as U.S. firms have reported increasing challenges with operating in China, while China has sharply criticized U.S. efforts to block its access to advanced semiconductors.
Raimondo said the world expects the United States and China will have a stable economic relationship; the two countries share more than $700 billion in annual trade.
“It’s a complicated relationship. It’s a challenging relationship. We will of course disagree on certain issues,” Raimondo said. “I think we can make progress if we are direct, open and practical.”
Raimondo, who is holding three days of talks with Chinese and business leaders to boost ties, met with Commerce Minister Wang Wentao on Monday for just over two hours.
Wang said US-China economic relations matter not just to the two countries, but also the rest of the world and expressed appreciation of Raimondo’s remarks that she likes trade with China.
He said he was ready to work together to “foster a more favorable policy environment for stronger cooperation between our businesses to bolster bilateral trade and investment in a stable and predictable manner.”
Raimondo said the United States and China have “worked over the summer to establish new information exchanges and working groups that will enable us to have more consistent engagement in our relationship.”
Some Republicans in Congress have criticized the suggestion that the United States would agree to a working group with China on export controls on advanced semiconductor chips.
Raimondo has declared off-limits any discussion of U.S. export curbs aimed at slowing Beijing’s military advances.
“Of course, of matters of national security there is no room to compromise or negotiate,” she said, adding the vast majority did not impact national security concerns.
At an event later on Monday, Raimondo showed off a number of personal care products made by U.S. companies and sold in China to make the case that trade can flourish outside products with national security implications, and said 99% of trade between the two countries is unrelated to export controls.
“No one can argue that health and beauty aids interfere in our national security,” she said. “The plan, and the hope, is that our commercial relationship, if done right, can stabilize the political relationship.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Michael Perry, Clarence Fernandez and Mike Harrison)